***M-Sport’s two Bentley Continental GT3s and equipment arrived in the Bathurst paddock at 3 a.m. on Friday following shipping delays that also impacted the support equipment for fellow UK-based outfit Strakka Racing. In total, five containers worth of freight were delivered to the track in the early morning hours, after a ten-hour journey by truck from Melbourne.
***Impressively, less than six hours later, both of the Bentleys were prepped and took to the track in the first practice session, with the No. 17 entry, featuring new factory driver Jules Gounon, setting the 11th quickest time overall.
***An accident between the No 15 Baigent Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 and No. 8 Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Practice 4 has sent Kent Baigent to a local hospital for precautionary scans of his back. The team has withdrawn its BMW GT4 car as a result of the heavy impact with the barriers.
***The crash, which brought the session to an early end, was the only significant accident to occur on Friday.
***The withdrawal is likely to leave with a 50-car grid out of the initial 53 cars on the final entry list. The No. 33 MARC Cars Australia Marc Mazda V8, as well as the No. 111 Ginetta G50 GT4 have yet to turn laps this weekend.
***A number of cars hit mechanical troubles on Friday, including the No. 32 Lago Racing Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX, which underwent an engine change between Practice 3 and 4, as well as one of the Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3s, which had a power steering fluid leak.
***The No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R lost a wheel on its out lap in the opening session, resulting in a delayed start for the American team, which has committed to the entire Intercontinental GT Challenge season.
***Both Ferrari and Nissan are notable absences from this year’s field, with Maranello Motorsport electing not to defend its overall victory. The team benefitted from a technical partnership with Triple Eight Engineering last year, which has since been focused on development of its new-generation Holden Commodore for Virgin Australia Supercars.
***Nissan, meanwhile, is understood to have skipped the event due to the GT3 homologation cycle, which sees its new-generation GT-R NISMO GT3 ineligible for the race.
***Only 2017 or older homologated GT3 cars are eligible, as SRO has yet to complete its Balance of Performance test for 2018-spec models, including Evo updates to the Porsche, Ferrari, BMW M6 GT3 and Lexus RC F GT3.
***Bill Riley has made his first trip to Bathurst, in support of Kenny Habul’s effort in a Scott Taylor Motorsport-run Mercedes GT3. Riley Motorsports took over operations of Habul’s SunEnergy1 Racing team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year.
***Porsche could support a second factory-backed GT3 entry for the entire IGTC season, according to motorsport boss Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, who indicated that Team 75 Bernhard is likely to return for the Total 24 Hours of Spa alongside the single Manthey-run Porsche.
***Manthey and Craft-Bamboo Racing are fielding works-supported Porsches this weekend, with Dirk Werner, Romain Dumas and Fred Makowiecki having so far been the only season-long nominated Porsche drivers for the championship.
***Walliser said he’s been encouraged by the growth of IGTC, which is now in its third year. “We see in Bathurst there’s a huge demand and everyone wants to go there and that looks good,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s a good competition.”
***Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Joe Foster make up the only all-American lineup in this year’s race, in Putman’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup that’s run by Wall Racing. The 2014-spec Cup car, which claimed the 24H Series class title last year, will be put up for sale, in Australia, following the race.
***Pirelli returns as the exclusive tire provider for the second consecutive year, and also for the entire IGTC season. “Contrary to previous years, we are bringing just one type of tire to the Bathurst 12 Hours this time. This works equally well on a wide range of vehicle architectures and should have the effect of closing up the competition by removing a number of variables,” said Pirelli Circuit Activity Manager Matteo Braga.
***Volkswagen and BP were announced earlier this week as event partners as well, with the VW Amarok V6 to serve as the official recovery vehicle of the race. BP, meanwhile, is the new official fuel partner.