Entries for February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour have surpassed last year’s car count, with more than 55 nominations having been received for next year’s event.
Fifty-one cars ultimately started the 2017 race – a record grid – after four withdrawals throughout practice and qualifying.
The current field includes 35 GT3 cars, the ever-growing fleet of GT4 vehicles and representation from 14 different brands, as well as teams from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, America and Asia.
Included amongst the growing entry list is New Zealand racer Kent Baigent, who has added to the GT4 class with a brand-new BMW M4 GT4.
Baigent will be a familiar name to those to have followed the Bathurst 1000 over the last three decades, waving the Kiwi flag as a privateer in the Great Race throughout the mid-1980s.
His M4 GT4 will be the third car of its type in the race, joining a GT4 field that already includes a pair of KTM X-Bows entered by M Motorsport and multiple Porsche Cayman entries, from Brookspeed Racing and Pro-Sport Performance.
Baigent said he had fond memories of competing at Mount Panorama during the Group A Touring Car days.
“It’s exciting to be returning to Bathurst again, and with another BMW,” he said.
“In 1985, our 635CSi stood up well for us finishing fifth with Neal Lowe, behind the Jim Richards / Tony Longhurst 635CSi, Cecotto / Ravaglia in a 635CSi and of course the two Walkinshaw Jaguars.
“Following that it was the Nissan Skylines with Team Nissan NZ and Graeme Bowkett. (We were) taken out by the rain at Skyline trying to avoid two crashed BMW’s, all still on slicks.”
Baigent has remained in competition in his naitive New Zealand, racing a BMW M3 GTR in both short and longer distance races – however it was an overseas test that prompted his shift to the latest model from BMW’s M division.
“We decided to move to a BMW M4 GT4 after testing it in Germany and being taken with the superb amount of thought and build quality they have put into this car,” he explained.
“Trying to get a slot from the production at BMW Motorsport was the only problem, but they helped by giving us priority for delivery due to the time constraints. We had to ship the car to NZ, prepare it, run it in, get driver familiarity and then load all the items needed for a 12-Hour race – and get it to Bathurst in time.
“There is lots of work, mileage and excitement to come, so I’m looking forward to it immensely.”
The Kiwi outfit will name their driving squad in due course.
Event director John Casey said Baigent’s entry reflected the growing interest in the GT4 class.
“After strong growth this year, the GT4 class will comfortably have more than 10 entries in 2018,” he said.
“With a trio of BMWs, the KTM X-Bows and a host of Porsche Cayman’s – and more yet to be announced – the GT4 class is shaping up to be highly competitive.
“Overall, entries are tracking above 2017 levels which is very pleasing. What is even more notable is the continual increase in depth and quality of those entering the race, which will make for an even better show in February.”