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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bathurst Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

****With SunEnergy1 Racing’s victory, Mercedes-AMG has tied with Audi for most wins in the GT era of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. Both manufacturers have three apiece.

***Mercedes-AMG also became the first brand to win the Bathurst 12H in consecutive years since Audi in 2011 and 2012.

***Jules Gounon, who became the first three-time winner of the race, said this victory was “really tough” due to the warmer ambient temperatures and the fact that he and Luca Stolz drove all but 100 minutes.

***Gounon said: “During the winter you try to train and when you are in those moments you’re happy that you’ve put yourself in difficult situations and that’s why we train to not give up and be really focused and deliver.”

***While SunEnergy1 claimed back-to-back overall victories — becoming the second GT3 entrant to win the race twice — those successes came with two different operating teams. Last year it was under the direction of Triple Eight Race Engineering while experienced French squad Akkodis-ASP ran Kenny Habul’s operation last weekend.

***Both wins came with brand-new Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos, after Habul retired last year’s winner to his personal collection in North Carolina. This year’s car, also a new chassis, is slated to take part in the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa.

***Habul became the first Bronze-rated driver to win an Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli race overall in a Pro class. The U.S.-based Australian’s only other outright win came at Mount Panorama last year when the race was Pro-Am enforced.

***In addition to a record three-day record attendance, the race achieved a new distance record of 323 laps (2,006 km), marking the first time it broke the 2,000 km milestone.

***It was aided by a four-hour and 45-minute green flag run to the checkered flag, also marking a new event record for an uninterrupted period of racing.

***Manthey EMA returned Porsche to the Bathurst 12H podium for the first time since the manufacturer won the race with Earl Bamber Motorsport in 2019. Matt Campbell was part of the driver lineup on both occasions.

***With Habul’s Pro entry ineligible to score IGTC Independent Cup points at Bathurst, the class victory went to Jonathan Hui and his Harrolds Volante Rosso Motorsport co-drivers Kevin Tse, Ross Poulakis and Josh Hunt, who finished 14th overall.

***Hui, as well as Habul and Stephen Grove, will battle for the Independent Cup title this season, although Hui is set to miss the next round at Kyalami this month. A drop score is permitted in the new-look Cup.

***Habul had his say on the dramatic incident in which Maro Engel turned Gounon around at the Chase to take a superficial lead with 48 minutes remaining. “He was the quickest this week,” Habul told Sportscar365. “I’d be disappointed if we couldn’t continue but I had no animosity at all when I saw my car spinning through the grass.

***Gounon initially believed he was in the gravel after Engel’s touch, but the No. 75 Mercedes-AMG was actually on the grass. “For me I thought I was in the gravel so I disconnected the TC because I saw Maro doing it last year and I think it works when you’re in the gravel,” he said.

***The Pro-Am winning No. 65 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II came back from three laps down after Liam Talbot encountered a loose wheel nut at Griffins Bend. “It slid me sideways without warning, into the fence and buckled the rim,” Talbot told Sportscar365. “To get that redemption and the big trophy is mega cool.”

***Despite Supercars star Chaz Mostert being part of the lineup, it was Bronze-rated Talbot who was tasked with starting the No. 65 Audi on cold tires at dawn. “It was like a blur,” he reflected. “I can’t describe it accurately because it would undersell what happened out there, seeing the sunrise over the mountains.”

***Mostert ended up setting the fastest lap of the race, a 2:02.168 that was six-tenths away from the race lap record set by Shane van Gisbergen in 2016.

***Melbourne Performance Centre team principal Troy Russell praised the use of the so-called ‘lucky dog’ wave-by rule that enabled his organization’s No. 65 Audi to get back onto the lead lap, describing it as a “pretty cool” system for the event.

***Russell added that MPC needs to investigate further the damage to the No. 74 Pro Audi following its accident in the opening hour. Asked about the damage, he said: “Everything on the back. All headers got creased over, so the exhaust was [done].”

***Audi Sport head of customer racing Chris Reinke said it was “more than disappointing” to see the factory-supported No. 74 car retire “through no fault of its own” so early in the race. “After this setback, it was even nicer to see how our customer teams prevailed in their classes,” Reinke added.

***Team WRT was impressed with Valentino Rossi’s Mount Panorama debut as the MotoGP star ran a clean race to keep the No. 46 BMW M4 GT3 in the mix until a brake light issue. “He did a hell of a job,” declared Augusto Farfus, who is co-driving with Rossi in GTWC Europe Endurance Cup this year. “I think he will not be a limiting factor for us.”

***The BMWs “just didn’t have the pace” compared to their Pro rivals according to the Belgian team’s sporting director Kurt Mollekens, who assessed that the M4’s speed was “better in colder conditions then “dropped off completely” between hours four and six.

***Unlike Mercedes-AMG and Porsche, the BMWs did not double-stint their tires. The No. 32 car attempted it once in the early stages but didn’t last the full second stint. “Our single stint pace was similar to the double stint pace of the Mercs,” Mollekens reckoned.

***Schumacher Motorsport retired from third in Pro-Am with two and a half hours remaining due to an engine issue. It came after Bronze driver Brad Schumacher had an eventful early stint caused by a faulty radio link.

***Schumacher missed the wave-around call at a third-hour safety car, putting him right in front of the overall leaders. He then got a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, and a two-minute stop-go penalty for failing to comply with a black flag order.

***Speaking to TV pit lane reporter Shea Adam, Schumacher said that he thought he was still on the lead lap after the safety car, and then didn’t realize he was supposed to take a drive-through when he stopped at his pit box. “Unfortunately, I had no radio,” he said. “It made me look really silly and I felt really bad about it after I got out of the car.”

***Watch company Bausele handed out timepieces to the Pro-Am race winners, with the chronograph’s crown containing limestone extracted from the iconic ‘Mount Panorama Bathurst’ sign.

***A ground fire broke out near the Mount Panorama sign a few hours after the race. Australian publication Speedcafe reported that there was no damage to the sign except for some burnt grass near the ‘T.”. The blaze was officially under control as of 5:26 a.m.

***MRA Motorsport won the Invitational class with its MARC I Mazda, which completed 283 laps. Its only competitor in the class, the Nineteen Corporation Mercedes-AMG GT4, retired. The MARC machine completed the second-furthest distance for an Invitational car in 12 Hour history.

***Myland Team IMS dominated the Silver category with its Audi driven by Daniel Gaunt, Andrew Fawcet and Dylan O’Keefe. It finished six laps ahead of the second-placed No. 101 Volante Rosso Motorsport Mercedes-AMG. The podium was completed by the No. 50 M Motorsport Audi, which was scrambled from MPC’s spares haul on Friday to replace the team’s KTM X-Bow GT2 that encountered an engine issue in practice.

***Christopher Mies added another Bathurst lap record to his resume as he set the fastest electric vehicle time around the 3.86-mile Mount Panorama Circuit. Mies posted a time of 2:28.15 in an Audi RS e-tron GT on Saturday. The German ace already holds the venue’s outright GT3 lap record, a 1:59.291 set during a special event in 2018.

***With the season-opening Bathurst 12H in the books, the IGTC  moves on to the Kyalami 9 Hour in South Africa on Feb. 23-25.

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.

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