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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bathurst Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook from Bathurst, site of IGTC season-opener…

Photo: John Dagys

***The majority of the 39 cars taking part in this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour took to the streets for the second annual ‘town to track’ parade, which concluded in the city center with autograph sessions, driver Q&A sessions and other fan-related activity.

***Born out of the concept seen at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, last year’s Suzuka 10 Hours debuted its own version of such a parade, meaning three of the five Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli rounds now feature such pre-race events.

***Aston Martin factory driver Maxime Martin has joined the No. 188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 this weekend, alongside the previously announced trio of Alexander West, Chris Goodwin and Come Ledogar.

***Defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Canada champion Roman De Angelis has also been confirmed at Garage 59, in the team’s sister No, 159 entry alongside Andrew Watson and Olivier Hart.

***Other late additions have included Dirk Mueller and Harrison Newey in a Mercedes-AMG GT4. Both are understood to be Multimatic-contracted drivers, joining the previously announced Andy and Sebastian Priaulx to the firm’s growing lineup of drivers.

***Several IMSA Mazda drivers, including Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla, are understood to also be under Multimatic contracts instead of being directly employed to the Japanese manufacturer.

***Multimatic’s close relationship with Mercedes-AMG, which includes trackside technical support for customers in both Australia and North America, is understood to have been the driving force for Mueller and Newey’s Bathurst debuts this weekend.

***Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Stefan Wendl joked to Sportscar365 that every AMG Bathurst rookie must go through the “GT4 training program” at Mount Panorama first.

***Mueller told Sportscar365 he received extensive experience in both the manufacturer’s GT3 Evo and GT4 cars during a week-long test at Portimao late last year and is again expected to be part of the manufacturer’s lineup for the Nürburgring 24.

***Newey, who arrived on Thursday, becomes the 25th driver to have made the trip from Daytona to Bathurst. It has also resulted in Bathurst featuring at least one winner from each of the classes last weekend: Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande (DPi), Newey (LMP2), Augusto Farfus and Chaz Mostert (GTLM) and Andrea Caldarelli (GTD).

***Honda Racing Team JAS co-drivers van der Zande and Mario Farnbacher had drastically different travel experiences coming from Daytona. Farnbacher’s original flight plans, from Orlando-Chicago-Tokyo-Syndey, was disrupted with a canceled flight to Tokyo, forcing the German to be re-routed via Los Angeles.

***Van der Zande, meanwhile, had a planned extended layover in LAX, the day after scoring his second consecutive Rolex 24 win. “I jumped off the plane, biked around [the beach], had lunch and dinner and went back to the airport and flew here,” he told Sportscar365.

***The Dutchman is not expected to contest this year’s Nürburgring 24 or Total 24 Hours of Spa due to his IMSA commitments, which need to be prioritized for the 2020 season.

***Honda’s lineup for the season, according to co-driver Dane Cameron is a “moving target” although van der Zande confirmed he will contest the Suzuka 10 Hours and Kyalami 9 Hour in addition to Bathurst. Bertrand Baguette will be part of the lineup for Spa, meanwhile. 

***While Mercedes-AMG has been able to successfully homologate its new-for-2020 GT3 Evo for Bathurst, Ferrari’s 488 GT3 Evo 2020 is not present, despite HubAuto Corsa giving the package its competition debut in the recent Asian Le Mans Series round at The Bend.

***Among the key enhancements of the Mercedes Evo includes driver-specific rear wing angle adjustments, which can be performed by special tool during a pit stop, according to AMG’s Wendl. “They make the change during pit stops by one or two degrees,” he said. “This is a very nice tool. It’s what it’s made for. All of the customers say they like it.”

***The added flexibility in setup for the Mercedes Evo was utilized in Riley Motorsports’ entry in last weekend’s Rolex 24.

***All three of the Mercedes Evos this weekend have been upgraded via Evo kits, while two brand-new cars debuted in the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai earlier this month for CP Racing and SPS Automotive. Wendl said that they have more than 40 upgrade kits on pre-order.

***In addition to the Mercedes Evo, the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, McLaren 720S GT3, Honda NSX GT3 Evo and new-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R and Aston Martins are all making their Bathurst 12 Hour debuts this weekend. 

***Walkenhorst Motorsport wasn’t the only team to face shipping delays out of Kyalami, with GruppeM Racing having had to fly in the majority of its spares at a cost of nearly $20,000 according to team director Alex Zoechling.

***The team managed to intercept its Bathurst-bound sea freight in Singapore. Zoechling said they reduced the air freight costs by building a make-shift data station out of its flight cases and purchased TVs locally. “When you have extra costs like this, it is a big hit in the budget,” he told Sportscar365.

***GruppeM’s Mercedes chassis here this weekend came from Macau as planned and will be utilized for the Suzuka, Macau and next year’s Bathurst race. Its Kyalami chassis, which was initially on loan by Mercedes-AMG, has since been purchased by the team and will contest Spa, Indianapolis and Kyalami this year.

***This weekend’s race is expected to be the final major GT3 event running Pirelli’s DHD2 tire. The Italian manufacturer is set to roll out with the all-new DHE beginning with the start of the GT World Challenge powered by AWS season at Circuit of The Americas in March.

***Matteo Braga, Pirelli racing technical manager said: “Our product for this race is exactly the same as last year, so the teams can take advantage of the data they collected at Bathurst and the rest of the IGTC rounds, although some manufacturers will be fielding their latest cars for the first time.”

***It’s understood GTWC America competitors will get their first taste of the DHE tire during a test at Homestead-Miami Speedway next month, as part of SRO America’s BoP testing for the TC America classes.

***The date of this year’s season-ending Kyalami 9 Hour is expected to be moved back by one week, as the race currently falls on the same weekend as Macau. 

***Sportscar365 understands that a second IGTC date could also be moved, in the wake of two clashes with ADAC GT Masters races, which has severely hampered factory contracted drivers from Audi, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche, among others.

***A new book titled ‘Bathurst: Going Global – 10 Years of Australia’s International Enduro 2011-2020’ is set to be published to highlight the race’s GT3 era (pictured below). Edited by longtime event PR rep and commentator Richard Craill and published by AN1 Media, the 230-page hardcover book is already available for pre-order for a slated August release.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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