Connect with us

Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bathurst Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour paddock…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

***The decision to change the Top 10 Shootout last year to two timed group sessions instead of the event’s traditional single-car qualifying was “pretty effective” according to event director Shane Rudzis, who said the format will remain in place this weekend to see how it works in a “normal kind of event” owing to the Pro-Am-enforced meeting in 2022.

***Rudzis said: “It’s been a discussion raised for a long time about that. What keeps coming back is that the Pirelli tire takes time to warm up. We want to make sure we get the fastest times possible. With the one-lap warmup and out you go, the tires aren’t up to optimal temperature, is what they’re saying.”

***The Pirelli tire is different this year, with the Italian supplier introducing its P Zero DHF product to the Australian market. Last year the DHE was used. A minimum tire pressure of 1.4 bar has been applied for all GT3 cars.

***A record crowd is expected this weekend, with ticket sales up 65 percent over the previous record edition in 2020, and camping sales increased by 50 percent, also from the last pre-pandemic race according to Rudzis, who cited the “Rossi factor” and Liam Lawson’s Red Bull Formula 1 demonstration laps as factors for the surge of interest.

***Eight-hundred pupils from local schools, as well as children enrolled in an outdoor-based education program in the neighboring state Victoria, spent the day at Mount Panorama as part of the ‘Students on Track’ program to engage schoolchildren in motorsports.

***Team WRT has “upped the staff” for its Bathurst 12H return with new manufacturer BMW by adding one mechanic per car, according to the Belgian squad’s sporting director Kurt Mollekens. Long hours digesting setups have been part of the program for WRT during its early days with the M4 GT3.

***Mollekens told Sportscar365: “I don’t think we ever went to the hotel [in Dubai] before 2 a.m. The whole pit lane was empty because most teams are handling cars that they’ve handled for years. In the Audi, we would have been at the hotel at 11 p.m. as well, but it takes two or three hours longer.”

***Valentino Rossi confirmed to Sportscar365 that he will not race at the Kyalami 9 Hour later this month. BMW M Team WRT has yet to confirm its lineups for a planned two-car entry into the South African IGTC round. “We will do some tests in March to prepare for the season, but not Kyalami,” Rossi said.

***The seven-time MotoGP top-category world champion added that his Hankook 24H Dubai outing last month was “crucial” for understanding the BMW and getting more 24-hour experience. “My target is the big 24-hour races,” he stated. “Every time you make one, it’s better. After Spa, I was destroyed. After Dubai, a little bit better.”

***Jules Gounon and Luca Stolz are staying with co-driver Kenny Habul at his recently acquired property on Conrod Straight this weekend. “The vibe is very good,” Gounon told Sportscar365. “We’re staying in Kenny’s house on Conrod Straight, which is amazing because we’re ‘with’ the track. We’re sleeping with the track every night.”

***According to the pre-event Balance of Performance, the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo IIs are 10 kgs lighter than they were at last year’s Bathurst 12H. The Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo is also 10 kg lighter, while the Porsche 911 GT3 R has received a 5 kg increase. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo is unchanged.

***Geoff Taunton and Mark Griffith are pulling double duty between the 12 Hour and the Combined Sedans support series. Taunton is driving a MARC II V8, developed by the same company behind his MARC I Mazda for the main event, while Griffith is in a Mercedes A45 for the supports and a Mercedes-AMG GT4 for the 12 Hour.

***Stephen Grove isn’t yet sure if his Grove Racing team’s new Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 R, which is set to debut at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa, will go to Australia after the IGTC season. “We’d like to maybe do Daytona because we haven’t done that, but we’re not sure what we’ll do,” he said.

***Jonathan Hui will skip the Kyalami 9 Hour and will apply that as his dropped score race for the IGTC Independent Cup. Hui is then set to contest the 24 Hours of Spa with his Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS team Sky-Tempesta Racing, but his team for the Indianapolis 8 Hour powered by AWS hasn’t been determined.

***Grove and Hui are expecting a tough Independent Cup battle against reigning Pro-Am champion Habul. “Last year we didn’t finish the race and he won it outright,” said Grove. “He’s a fierce competitor, but I look forward to the challenge.” 2022 runner-up Hui added: “He’s super quick here. Luckily, this round is not counting for him. The rest is more of an even playing field. Someone’s got to try and give him a run for his money!”

***Augusto Farfus today turned his first laps in a Team WRT-run BMW M4 GT3 having never previously driven for the team. “Until October, they were Audi,” Farfus told Sportscar365. “From October onwards, I only did LMDh [testing]. My last GT3 test was at Vallelunga in November, so it’s been a big break since my last time in a GT3.”

***Farfus rates Bathurst as one of his favorite circuits to drive. The Brazilian is making his fourth 12 Hour appearance this weekend. “The people here are just very friendly,” he said. “At this track, you get a bit of Macau, a bit of Nordschleife and put it together.”

***The Manthey EMA squad is a mixture of staff from experienced Porsche squad Manthey and Australian team EMA Motorsport. Although EMA is new to the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, several members of the team were involved in the 59 Racing McLaren effort that finished second in 2020.

***The No. 912 Porsche 911 GT3 R is owned by EMA. It is the same car that competed in last year’s 24 Hours of Spa and the penultimate round of the NLS season at the Nürburgring.

***Manthey is on the Bathurst 12H entry list for the first time since 2018, although the team is well-prepared for the event according to managing director Nicolas Raeder. “We have supported many other teams in the last years, such as the Earl Bamber Motorsport victory,” he told Sportscar365. “So we are well informed on what we have to do.”

***Saturday’s track action consists of Practice 5, Practice 6 and qualifying. The qualifying format consists of two preliminary sessions and two ‘shootout’ sessions. The cars with the 10 fastest two-driver combined times from qualifying will advance to the ‘shootout’ which will run as a pair of 15-minute timed sessions.

***Practice 5, Practice 6 and qualifying will be streamed live on the Bathurst 12 Hour YouTube channel. Commentary is provided by John Hindhaugh, Richard Craill and Repco Bathurst 1000 winner and five-time 12-Hour starter Garth Tander, with Shea Adam reporting on pit lane alongside Chad Neylon and Mark Beretta.

John Dagys contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

Click to comment

More in Intercontinental GT Challenge