***Two cars have been withdrawn from the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour following a string of accidents in the opening day of track action in the Intercontinental GT Challenge season-opener.
***The No. 3 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8 LMS has been pulled after Pete Storey’s accident in Friday morning’s Bronze/Silver practice session, while Black Swan Racing has been sent packing after Tim Pappas’ heavy crash in FP2. It has resulted in a reduced 37-car field.
***An accident from Paul Dalla Lana, who was hit by the No. 888 Team Vodafone Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Shane van Gisbergen, has left the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 heavily damaged but in the process of being repaired for tomorrow’s action, according to co-drivers Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy.
***A spectator was seen extinguishing the fire from the back of the No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R following Tim Pappas’ crash in FP2. Safety crews did not arrive to the site of the accident for some two minutes, with nearby corner workers not seen initially attending to the accident either.
***In a statement provided to Sportscar365, CAMS and Supercars Events, the promoter of the Bathurst 12 Hour, is investigating the incident and subsequent response to the accident. “Once the relevant information is attained the incident will be fully reviewed by CAMS, the body responsible for track safety, marshals and officials at the event,” the statement read.
***Pappas has been transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Sydney where he is currently in stable condition with injuries to his right shoulder and arm, per a Porsche spokesperson.
***The pair of M-Sport-run Bentley Continental GT3s are sporting special liveries this weekend, in commemoration of the British manufacturer’s 100th anniversary year. The cars are sporting Nos. 107 and 108, also in honor of the centenary, with 100 added to each of its traditional numbers.
***A total of 20 cars are eligible to score Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli points this weekend, spread among the seven registered manufacturers, which can nominate up to four points-scoring cars for each event. Click Here for the IGTC-specific entry list.
***Per IGTC rules, only the two best-placed cars from each brand will score manufacturer points, although drivers competing in all registered entries are eligible for points in the drivers’ championship.
***Two Bronze drivers have been registered to contest the entire season, although Pappas’ accident has resulted in only a single points-scoring driver in defending class champion Kenny Habul this weekend.
***Unlike last year’s rules, which mandated the registered Bronze to race in the Pro-Am class, the restriction has been lifted.
***Sportscar365 understands that an additional Bronze-rated driver could register for the remainder of the season, beginning with next month’s California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
***More than 30 entries are expected for the second round of the season on March 30, including what’s believed to be a two-car JAS Motorsport-run factory effort from Honda, which along with a rumored return by Team WRT, could also complete the remainder of the season.
***The Belgian squad elected not to defend its Bathurst 12 Hour win due to the tight turnaround from last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, where Team WRT Speedstar was confirmed Thursday as a podium finisher following a post-race drive time audit which demoted the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi.
***Despite not fielding an entry this weekend, members of Herberth Motorsport are assisting several teams, including Grove Racing, which is utilizing Andi Toll as its pit stop coordinator. Toll is also fresh off last weekend’s Rolex 24, having worked with NGT Motorsport.
***The Melbourne-based Grove operation is taking part in its seventh Bathurst 12 Hour and returns to defend its Class B win with a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for father-and-son Stephen and Brenton Grove plus Ben Barker.
***The Grove’s worked with Herberth in last year’s FIA GT Nations Cup in Bahrain, with the German squad having fielded its Team Australia entry. It’s understood Grove Racing is targeting a return to the Nations Cup this year, subject to local ASN approval.
***An active effort is being made to advance the FIA homologations for new and updated GT3 cars to ensure its participation at Bathurst next year. It’s understood SRO would require the car to contest at least one end-of-year race to establish its initial Balance of Performance for the start of the following year.
***It comes in the wake of several manufacturers. including Audi, Porsche and Aston Martin, being forced to run previous-generation or retrofitted machinery this weekend.
***SRO Motorsports founder and CEO Stephane Ratel is not on-site this weekend due to family obligations. It’s understood to be the first IGTC race Ratel has missed since the championship’s inception in 2016.
***IGTC series manager Sophie Peyrat is in sole command this weekend, although Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia series manager Benjamin Franassovici is also in attendance, among other SRO staff.
***Lamborghini is taking a wait-and-see approach on a potential commitment to the SRO’s new GT2 platform, according to Head of Motorsport Giorgio Sanna, who admitted he’s unclear on the exact makeup of the class. “We’ve told Stephane, we’d be happy to upgrade/downgrade the Super Trofeo car for this category,” Sanna told Sportscar365.
***The Italian manufacturers is one of several automakers actively planning a presence in IGTC next year, which could top a dozen brands in 2020.
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report