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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bathurst Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday notebook after qualifying for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

***The No. 32 BMW M4 GT3 from Team WRT was disqualified from Saturday’s final qualifying session. An amended results sheet lists separate disqualifications for the BMW, driven by Sheldon van der Linde, and Christopher Haase’s No. 74 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II that set the seventh-quickest lap time.

***No official bulletin had been published as of 8:30 p.m. local time, although it is understood that the BMW penalty was related to tire pressures and the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II case was related to a breach of parc ferme procedure.

***Maro Engel, who earned the Allan Simonsen Pole Award trophy for a second time, told Sportscar365 that he felt that Simonsen, who lost his life at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, was “watching over us” and “would be proud of what we did today.”

***Engel set a new Bathurst 12 Hour qualifying lap record, beating Shane van Gisbergen’s 2016 record by 0.405 seconds. The German driver claimed the third Mercedes-AMG pole at Bathurst and became the second two-time pole-sitter in the event’s GT era after Chaz Mostert. Previous Mercedes poles went to Lee Holdsworth (2013), Engel (2014) and Raffaele Marciello (2019).

***Pirelli “expected” the lap record to fall with its latest P Zero DHF tire, according to the company’s racing technical manager Matteo Braga. The DHF is new to Australia but often produced quicker qualifying times in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS last year. Braga said that Van Gisbergen’s broken record was set on a medium-compound DMC tire.

***Engel’s co-driver Marciello hopes the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos won’t be hit with a post-qualifying Balance of Performance change after locking out the front row. “We can see AMGs in front, so we hope that SRO will be good for us tonight,” Marciello said during the qualifying press conference.

***Audi Sport received a 15 kg weight increase in a pre-race BoP adjustment after two of its cars qualified first and second last year.

***Maximilian Goetz was impressed by the qualifying performance of his Supercars co-driver Broc Feeney, who beat several seasoned GT3 hands to take second. Goetz, who turned 37 today, said: “I woke up and said, OK, I turn 25 and this guy is 20! I couldn’t believe that he’s just 20. It shows his great potential and talent.”

***The M Motorsport Audi that was brought in to replace the team’s KTM X-Bow GT2 is the same Melbourne Performance Centre chassis that was trucked overnight from Melbourne to Bathurst last year following a practice crash for the Supabarn squad.

***The KTM was running on the same DHF tire as the GT3 cars, although Pirelli has adapted to supply M Motorsport’s replacement Audi with a larger front tire size.

***Despite Audi not being an Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli manufacturer, its head of customer racing Chris Reinke confirmed there will be multiple Audi GT3 cars on the grid in the Kyalami 9 Hour, in local South African-based teams as well as a yet-to-be-identified European squad that has sent cars.

***Audi Sport has yet to announce its factory driver lineup for this year, although the works drivers present this weekend are all expected to be part of the roster, which Reinke said will have some “new faces” to replace Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts, Rene Rast and Nico Mueller, who have all departed for either BMW or Peugeot.

***When asked if Kelvin van der Linde, who is noticeably absent from Bathurst for the first time since 2017, will be a factory driver this year, Reinke said it will be “to be confirmed” with the forthcoming driver announcement.

***Bathurst 12 Hour event director Shane Rudzis has said that the goal is for the race to eventually have a 40-car grid, made up predominantly of GT3 machinery. He said the 2017 edition, which featured a bumper 60-car grid was “dangerous from the perspective of the event.”

***Rudzis told of discussions about possibly adding Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars as a secondary class, and admitted he was unsure if GT4 has enough reach to become its own class in the race in the future.

***He said: “Right now our focus is purely on getting as many GT3 cars on the grid because it’s a GT event and that’s what we want. Whether that would be domestic or International cars to get here.”

***Ross Poulakis, driver of the No. 101 Harrolds Volante Rosso Motorsport Mercedes-AMG, was fined $15,000 AUD ($10,386 USD) for failing to slow down under red flag conditions and completing a lap when the red flags were out during Practice 5.

***Event promoter Supercars is in talks with four other manufacturers that could join the 12 Hour next year, either with trackside production car launches or with cars on the grid. A total of eight manufacturers, including boutique or purpose-built race constructors KTM, SIN and MARC Cars, entered this year’s race.

***The Daytona Sports Cars team running the SIN R1 packed up on Saturday after an accident at Skyline during practice. Of the four Invitational entries, only the No. 111 MRA Motorsport MARC I Mazda took part in qualifying.

***As was the case last year, Invitational cars are limited to a maximum lap time of 2:06.

***While the new Ferrari 296 GT3 and Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 R will be eligible beginning next year, Rudzis confirmed that the new-for-2024 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R and Ford Mustang GT3 won’t be competing on the Mountain until 2025 at the earliest due to SRO Motorsports Group’s Balance of Performance test occurring after the Bathurst event in March.

***Supercars has hired an immigration specialist for the first time to help with the influx of international entries. Rudzis said this has “dramatically lessened the hurdles” overseas teams have previously faced with entering Australia.

***Rudzis has defended the continued use of the so-called ‘lucky dog’ rule for wave-bys under safety car periods, although admitted that people “agree or disagree” with it. He said: “I think for us, what’s the key thing we all want to see in this race? It’s the last hour, the battle between as many cars as possible to make it a classic end to this race. That’s what we want.”

***Lamborghini’s customer technical support manager Giovanni Rizzo is at Bathurst supporting Wall Racing, which is the Italian manufacturer’s only representative for the second year in a row. Rizzo came to Bathurst from last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

***David Wall highlighted the benefits of having a Lamborghini presence on-site. “He’s been able to give us the electronics upgrades and those things that can’t be done remotely,” Wall told Sportscar365. “Braking performance and traction control have been better.” Part of the car’s typically red and white bodywork is bright green, in recognition of the factory support.

***Wall Racing is not updating its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo to the manufacturer’s latest EVO2 specification due to the age of the chassis. Wall explained that the car was new in 2016 and upgraded to the 2019 Evo specification but can go no further.

***When asked if Wall Racing is planning to introduce a new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2, Wall said: “We would like to be able to do something along those lines in the future. The focus is on the 12 Hour and see how we go.”

***The pole-sitting GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG is the No. 98 car that the team ran in the Gulf 12 Hours at the end of last year’s IGTC season. It retired from the race in Abu Dhabi due to an oil leak, however team owner Kenny Chen said that it was fully checked and prepared before shipping to Australia.

***The other GruppeM car from the Gulf 12H was sent to Kyalami and is due to arrive in South Africa this week. The Bathurst car will then be shipped back to Europe and prepared for the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa. The Kyalami 9 Hour car will also return to Europe for rebuilding ahead of transportation to the Indianapolis 8 Hour presented by AWS.

***Both GruppeM cars are set to reunite later in the year for the Macau Grand Prix and Gulf 12H, according to Chen. The team will use the yellow Mann-Filter livery for the whole IGTC season.

***Craft-Bamboo Racing director Darryl O’Young said the Mercedes-AMG team had its attention on race day rather than qualifying. “We weren’t in a position to fight for pole,” he told Sportscar365 after Daniel Juncadella qualified 10th. “The priority was getting the drivers up to speed and familiar.” The Craft-Bamboo lineup includes Bathurst debutant Philip Ellis, as well as Nicky Catsburg who has only raced the AMG once before.

***While having been announced at the last minute, Audi’s factory-supported presence for this weekend’s race was never in question according to its head of customer racing Chris Reinke. The German manufacturer has brought six factory drivers to Bathurst.

***Reinke said: “It was about finalizing the whole setup. For sure, for us the core factor in Australia is the wide base of customer racing, which runs here the whole year very successfully in GT World Challenge Australia. To see that setup is well supported, we saw what kind of icing we could put on the cake.”

***The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour starts at 5:45 a.m. local time on Sunday (1:45 p.m. Saturday ET).

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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