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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bathurst Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from the IGTC season-opener at Bathurst…

Photo: Mark Horsburgh

***SunEnergy1 Racing delivered the first Mercedes-AMG win at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in nine years. The manufacturer’s last Mount Panorama triumph occurred in 2013 when Bernd Schneider, Thomas Jaeger and Alexander Roloff won for Erebus Motorsport in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.

***Winners Luca Stolz, Jules Gounon, Kenny Habul and Martin Konrad became the latest Australian Tourist Trophy recipients for their achievement. Habul, who performed a ‘shoey’ celebration on the podium, became the seventh Australian driver to win his home 12-hour race in the event’s GT racing era.

***Mercedes-AMG’s Head of Customer Racing, Stefan Wendl, hailed the manufacturer’s “amazing” podium sweep with SunEnergy1, Craft-Bamboo Racing and Triple Eight Race Engineering. “It feels so great because after the last days, we knew that it was a really hard race and we have such strong competitors here, that we need to be smart to have a chance, and also maybe get a little bit of luck,” Wendl told Sportscar365. “In the end, this is what we got.”

***Wendl felt that the conditions played a factor in determining the outcome: “There were some mixed conditions, which is something where our car is so strong and we could dominate,” he said. “I believe that if it stayed dry, it would have been a tough one. Because the Audis, especially with Ricardo [Feller] and Kelvin [van der Linde], were so amazingly fast.”

***Craft-Bamboo Racing finished on the Bathurst 12H podium for the second time, after previously taking third with Aston Martin in 2015. “We’ve had a third-place and a second-place here, so there’s only one more spot to get,” team director Darryl O’Young told Sportscar365.

***Wall Racing produced Lamborghini’s best-ever result at the Bathurst 12 Hour, with fifth place for Tony D’Alberto, Adrian Deitz, Grant Denyer and David Wall. The Italian marque’s previous best representation was sixth for Lago Racing’s Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX in 2017.

***Kelvin van der Linde set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 256. The DTM race winner reeled off a time of 2:03.117 behind the wheel of the No. 74 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II as he sought to make up the ground lost by a costly two-minute penalty.

***There was confusion in the pits when van der Linde served the stop-and-hold with three and a half hours to go. He and Nathanael Berthon went to carry out a driver change but were halted by MPC team boss Troy Russell because the penalty needed to be served first. “Our radio wasn’t working, so I couldn’t hear anything that was going on,” van der Linde said.

***Grove Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R is due to be shipped to Germany in the next couple of days for the team’s TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa program, however it is unclear if those plans remain after the car was damaged in an accident for Stephen Grove at the top of the mountain.

***The experienced quartet of Craig Lowndes, Geoff Emery, Alex Davison and Scott Taylor put together a reliable run to finish 10th in their Cup class-winning Porsche. The last time an entry from outside the top ‘A’ category for GT3 cars finished in the top 10 was in 2014, when Grove Racing’s Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, featuring Earl Bamber and Ben Barker, placed eighth as the Class B winner.

***The No. 222 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup came back covered in signatures as part of a donation drive for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. More than $60,000 AUD ($41,600 USD) had been raised by the end of the event.

***None of the Invitational class entries made it to the finish. The No. 52 MARC Cars Mustang retired due to an accident at Reid Park after 45 minutes, while the sister No. 95 machine succumbed to an engine failure after running as high as second overall during the fourth hour. M Motorsport’s KTM X-Bow GT2, meanwhile, exited the race after a barrier scrape on the mountain.

***The Mercedes-AMG sweep marked the first time that the same manufacturer occupied all three spots on the Bathurst 12 Hour podium. Additionally, Jules Gounon became the second two-time winner, as well as the first consecutive winner since Craft-Bamboo director O’Young who claimed victories in 2011 and 2012 with Audi.

***Triple Eight Race Engineering founder Roland Dane was at the helm of the winning SunEnergy1 Racing entry. Dane was Triple Eight’s Supercars team principal until the end of last season.

***Gounon said that the nature of his 2022 win feels different from his 2020 victory with Bentley Team M-Sport. “Then I was in the position of the hunter because I was hunting Marciello,” he said. “It’s a position you like because you can see the car in front: it’s a target. This position has been more difficult because your engineer is telling you every lap: 8.2, 8.4, 8.3, and you’re still pushing.”

***Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli manufacturers’ points will not be officially awarded until shortly before the 24 Hours of Spa, however provisionally Mercedes-AMG heads the standings with 25 points. Lower-finishing cars of the same brand were deemed invisible at Bathurst, meaning Audi scored 18 points despite placing fourth in the race. Lamborghini provisionally has 15 points earned by Wall Racing.

***Gounon and Daniel Juncadella have been assigned as Mercedes-AMG’s full-season IGTC drivers this year. “The calendar this year is a really difficult topic,” Wendl explained. “For example, Indianapolis is clashing with DTM. Finally, with all the clashes involved, the only drivers who are able to do the full IGTC are Dani and Jules.”

***Wendl also confirmed that the factory pair will not be split up for the 24 Hours of Spa, which is the first IGTC round of the season to count toward the drivers’ championship. Gounon, Juncadella and Raffaele Marciello share an Akkodis ASP Mercedes in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup, which also has the 24 Hours of Spa on its schedule.

***Audi Sport, meanwhile, is taking its IGTC driver selections on a “race by race” basis, according to customer racing boss Chris Reinke. “We won’t have dedicated drivers. The next event is Spa where the majority of our drivers will be participating, and then we will decide thereafter how to approach the remainder of the season,” he told Sportscar365.

***Reinke indicated that the last two years of unstable calendars have taught Audi key lessons in selecting lineups: “To do specific schedules, we learnt throughout the last two years and the rescheduling enforced by the pandemic situation: don’t plan too far ahead.”

***The next edition of the Bathurst 12 Hour is confirmed for Feb. 3-5, 2023. There was cautious optimism among those in the paddock last weekend that this original date can be kept, to enable the return of international manufacturers and entries en masse.

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.

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