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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bathurst Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook from the Bathurst 12H paddock at Mount Panorama…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

***The 26 cars entered into the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour took part in a ‘Town to Track’ parade on Thursday morning. They were driven from the circuit into Bathurst town center, parking up on Russell Street between two local landmarks, the courthouse and war memorial. Fans were then given the opportunity to get up to close to the cars and meet the drivers during an autograph session.

***Mercedes-AMG Junior Fabian Schiller will drive Mark Griffith’s Nineteen Corporation Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the Invitational class this weekend. The German driver, who finished second in last year’s Nürburgring 24 and drove for SunEnergy1 Racing at last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, is teaming up with Griffith and Porsche Carrera Cup Australia driver Christian Pancione.

***The addition of GT4 debutant Schiller to the final entry list means that 14 drivers have flown from Daytona to Australia for back-to-back endurance races.

***The livery of the Nineteen Corporation Mercedes-AMG, which is the only GT4 car in the field, resembles that of the ‘Red Pig’ Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.8 that finished second in the 1971 24 Hours of Spa.

***The No. 65 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II has been moved from the Silver Cup class to Pro-Am. It was listed as Silver on the entry list, although the lineup contains Gold-rated Australian Supercars star Chaz Mostert who took the overall pole at last year’s Bathurst 12H. It means that eight cars are now entered in Pro-Am, with five in Silver.

***Lamborghini is “not targeting” the IGTC this year, according to the manufacturer’s head of motorsport Giorgio Sanna. Talking to Sportscar365 at Daytona last week, Sanna said: “In this moment, there are no teams from Lamborghini’s side interested to do the full season in Intercontinental GT.” K-PAX Racing is known to have evaluated an IGTC entry with Lamborghini.

***Liam Lawson will drive a 2011 Red Bull Racing RB7 Formula 1 car in demonstration laps at Mount Panorama. The 20-year-old New Zealander is a Red Bull Junior and finished third in last year’s FIA Formula 2 standings. This will be his first trip to Bathurst.

***Lawson said: “I’m excited to finally tackle the Mountain and in that car as well – in the RB7 – which I have had the privilege of driving once and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.”

***In addition to Lawson’s F1 demo laps, 2019 Red Bull Air Race champion Matt Hall will perform aerobatics in the skies above Mount Panorama on Saturday. Hall flies an MXS-R which is produced by Perth-based MX Aircraft Company.

***Bentley’s Mulliner special vehicles department has paid tribute to the Bathurst 12 Hour with a pair of special Continental GT S models sporting design cues taken from the 2020 race-winning No. 7 Bentley Continental GT3. Their green and silver colors resemble Bentley’s factory GT3 race liveries, while the interiors include special features including ‘Bathurst’ stitched into the headrests. There is also a white number seven imprinted onto the grille.

***For all of Luca Stolz’s Mercedes-AMG experience, this weekend will mark only the third time that the German driver has raced for Auto Sport Promotion. Stolz contested the 2018 IGTC season-ending California 8 Hours with SunEnergy1 Racing, which assigned Jerome Policand’s ASP team to run its car. The same arrangement has been made for Daytona and Bathurst five years later.

***SunEnergy1 Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo for Bathurst is a brand-new car and the third example owned by Kenny Habul. The car that the team fielded at Daytona last weekend will be shipped to the Kyalami 9 Hour, while the Bathurst car will head back to Europe to be prepared for the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa.

***Habul told Sportscar365 that his lineup for this year’s race was set “five minutes” after last year’s race, which saw the Bronze-rated Australian claim overall honors with Stolz, Jules Gounon and Martin Konrad.

***Konrad will return to SunEnergy1 for the remainder of the IGTC season according to Habul, who confirmed that Philip Ellis will complete the team’s Pro-Am class lineup for the Kyalami 9 Hour, which will be operated by SPS Automotive Performance.

***Valmont Racing’s Mercedes-AMG is running with the manufacturer’s Evo update package for the first time. The only ‘pre-Evo’ Mercedes-AMG in the field is the Scott Taylor Motorsport example.

***The two BMW M4 GT3s competing under the BMW M Team WRT banner are manufacturer-owned, rather than team-owned. The No. 46 is the Team RLL-run chassis that competed in the GTD Pro class of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship last year, while the No. 32 was previously used as a test car.

***BMW’s presence at Bathurst ticks a number of boxes according to its motorsport boss Andreas Roos, who is on-site. “It’s an important race for us because Australia is the sixth biggest market for M models,” he told Sportscar365. “For us, for sure, it’s interesting for us to be here; it’s a great race. In the end, it’s nice to be participating in these great races.”

***Nicky Catsburg told Sportscar365 that he encountered a kangaroo on his Thursday morning run around the track and asked the creature, which was perched on a trackside wall, not to venture onto the racing surface during the weekend.

***Catsburg knows all about the perils of marsupial intrusion at Mount Panorama. In 2020 the Dutchman was behind the wheel of a Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 when it struck a kangaroo exiting Forrest’s Elbow and retired due to cooling issues.

***Philip Ellis is jumping into his Bathurst debut after receiving a late call to replace the injured Lucas Auer at Craft-Bamboo Racing. “I would have liked to have a bit more preparation beforehand, but this makes more exciting to get that late call and hopefully putting in a good performance for Luggi,” Ellis told Sportscar365.

***The MARC Cars Australia team has launched a charitable initiative to raise money for Ronald McDonald House, the official Bathurst 12 Hour charity. The roof of the team’s No. 111 MARC I Mazda has a special Valentino Rossi design in recognition of the former MotoGP star’s Bathurst debut. All drivers will then sign the roof, which will be removed and auctioned. One of the Pirelli tires used on the No. 46 BMW will also be sold off, with all proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House which supports seriously ill or injured children and their families.

***SRO Motorsports Group and cybersecurity company CrowdStrike have revealed a new logo for the latter’s title sponsorship of the 24 Hours of Spa. As announced last summer, CrowdStrike is replacing TotalEnergies as the headline sponsor SRO’s biggest race, which forms part of the IGTC season. The new 24H Spa logo marks the event’s first full logo redesign in 15 years.

***Four 40-minute practice sessions are timetabled for Friday, including two for Bronze-rated drivers. Opening practice takes place at 9:45 a.m. local (5:45 p.m. ET Thursday).

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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