Shane van Gisbergen overcame a late-race pit lane penalty and a challenge from Katsumasa Chiyo to claim victory in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, marking the first major endurance race win for McLaren in more than 20 years.
Van Gisbergen took the Tekno Autosports McLaren 650s GT3 to a narrow 1.276-second victory over the defending race-winning Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 in a race that went caution-free for the final 90 minutes.
A four-way battle for the win developed in the final two hours between the McLaren, Nissan, No. 10 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 and No. 2 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS, but went the way of the V8 Supercars squad once the van Gisbergen climbed aboard.
He took over the lead following the car’s final fuel-only stop, thanks to a quicker refueling time than the Nissan, after the McLaren topped off its tank during the 13th and final full-course caution.
Chiyo managed to close a 12-second gap following the final stops to less than two seconds at the checkered flag, in what was an impressive late-race charge by the Japanese driver.
Van Gisbergen shared driving duties with McLaren GT factory driver Alvaro Parente and team owner Jonathon Webb. It was the first win for the British manufacturer in the race in the 650S GT3’s debut at Mt. Panorama.
McLaren also took top honors in the inaugural round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, in a race that saw a record 29 lead changes.
It came after two early race mishaps. The car had a refueling rig issue in the opening hour and lost 45 seconds shortly after when Parente stopped at the start/finish line with gear selection issues.
The No. 1 Nissan of Chiyo and co-drivers Rick Kelly and Florian Strauss was second, ahead of the Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Matt Bell-driven No. 10 Bentley, which completed the podium in third.
Kane rebounded from a brush with the wall and subsequent puncture in the fifth hour to retake the lead in the second half of the race but was unable to challenge the McLaren and Nissan in the final hour.
Phoenix Racing’s Audi R8 LMS finished fourth after fading late in the hands of Laurens Vanthoor, who battled a suspected mechanical issue in his closing stint.
The No. 36 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, which fell off the lead lap in the closing hours, completed the top-five, making it five different GT3 manufacturers in the top-five.
While Audi was denied the overall victory, the new R8 LMS picked up the GT3-Am class honors with the No. 5 Melbourne Performance Centre of Greg Taylor, Barton Mawer and Nathan Antunes, which finished sixth overall.
It was the highest-placed Audi from the five-car Melbourne team, with both the Nos. 74 and 75 entries dropping out of contention for the overall win due to tire punctures, and the No. 74 car retiring to due damage.
Other GT3 contenders that failed to finish included the No. 11 Objective Racing McLaren, which slammed the wall early in the hands of Warren Luff, as well as the No. 63 Erebus Mercedes that crashed in the hands of Austin Cindric after a puncture in the closing hours.
Grove Motorsport scored the Class B win, with the team’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car of Stephen Grove, Scott McLaughlin and Porsche factory driver Earl Bamber dominating the race from the start.
The trio finished 12th overall, some 15 laps ahead of the second-placed No. 6 Safe-T-Stop Porsche.
The No. 93 MARC Cars Australia Focus V8 of Jake Camilleri, Morgan Haber and Aaron Seton took the win in Class I, ahead of the sister Donut King-sponsored entry in second.
A record crowd of 37,079 spectators attended this year’s race, marking a near 15-percent increase over last year’s three-day attendance.
RESULTS: Bathurst 12 Hour