***A total of 55 cars are set for this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, following a handful of last-minute withdrawals for the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. One car from each of the 14 manufacturers represented assembled for a photo shoot on the front straight (pictured above).
***One team not present this weekend is the Craft-Bamboo Racing, which despite its Porsche 911 GT3 R arriving in Australia, was forced to withdraw after sponsorship fell through at the last minute.
***Out of the 33 GT3 cars on the final entry list, 14 will compete in the Pro class, with the event adopting all-pro driver lineups for the first time. Click Here for the latest version of the entry list.
***Bathurst also marks the first race of the revised eligibility rules for IGTC, which sees all GT3 drivers and teams automatically score points, as well as GT4 manufacturers, instead of previously being open to registered manufacturers only.
***SRO Motorsports Group boss Stephane Ratel told Sportscar365 the revised concept had been in the works since this time last year and was not a reaction to a low manufacturer turnout at the end of last year. “I think it’s a better way to do it and to continue developing it,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “To build something, it takes time. I think it makes it more interested for everybody.”
***With GT4 cars not eligible for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Ratel said the IGTC GT4 Manufacturers Championship will be contested over three rounds, and not four, as in the case of GT3.
***For the first time, all cars are on Pirelli tires, following an exclusivity deal reached with the Italian tire manufacturer for this year. According to McLaren GT Managing Director Andrew Kirkaldy, it could add a new dynamic to the race. “We were one of the only car on Pirellis last year,” he told Sportscar365. “We would have said the Michelins had potentially been a bit better but it was hard to say. That will be interesting.”
***After wins in the 24 Hours of Dubai and Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Herberth Motorsport and Alegra Motorsports, respectively, Porsche is seeking its third major endurance race victory in the span of four weeks. The Walkinshaw-entered No. 911 Porsche of factory drivers Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and Earl Bamber arguably holds the best chance of overall honors.
***Competition Motorsports’ Pro-Am class Porsche, of Patrick Long, Marc Lieb, David Calvert-Jones and Porsche Junior Matt Campbell, could be another contender. The chassis, owned by Calvert-Jones, was raced by Michael Lewis in Pirelli World Challenge last year, and completed a shakedown at Willow Springs prior to being shipped to Australia.
***McElrea Racing is again providing operational support to the Bob Faieta-owned team this weekend, as well as running the two Objective Racing McLaren 650S GT3 cars.
***The two ex-Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s are set for its Bathurst debut with Wall Racing in the GT3-Am class. Several AIM Autosport crew, including team principal Ian Willis, are supporting the effort, with Always Evolving’s Erik Davis behind the wheel of the No. 66 entry, in his first GT3 race. The team’s 2016 Pirelli World Challenge driver, James Davison, will also be on-site, but is not slated to drive this weekend.
***Incidentally, the green-and-black liveried No. 66 Nissan, in a near-spitting image to the Davison-driven PWC entry last year, is actually the former PWC car that Bryan Heitkotter drove in white and red Nissan GT Academy colors, with the white No. 38 car being Davison’s former chassis.
***The KTM X-Bow GT4 makes its Australian debut this weekend with M-Motorsport, featuring a stacked lineup led by Tomas Enge. “Australian GT has opened up its regulations to include GT4 vehicles, and we’re convinced that this is the category of the future,” said team owner/driver Justin McMillan.
***While none of its GT4 cars are on the grid this weekend, McLaren GT’s Kirkaldy said that more that upwards of 70 McLaren 570S GT4s have already been sold worldwide, between race and track day customers. “We’re building cars as quick as we can build them,” he said.
***A dozen drivers have arrived directly from Daytona, following last weekend’s Rolex 24 and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season-opener: Shane Van Gisbergen, Maro Engel, Christopher Mies, Toni Vilander, Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor, Matt Halliday, Patrick Long, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Charles Espenlaub.
***There’s also been a large contingent of media, PR and manufacturer support staff that have done the Daytona-Bathurst double as well.