Audi driver Nathanael Berthon felt it was “disappointing” for the manufacturer to miss out on the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour podium considering the pace of its cars at Mount Panorama.
Mercedes-AMG swept the podium on Sunday while the best Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II was the No. 74 car driven to fourth by Berthon, Kelvin van der Linde and Brad Schumacher.
Their chances of challenging the AMG crews for victory were dashed by a two-minute penalty with three and a half hours to go, after the Melbourne Performance Centre team that ran six of the seven Audi entries miscalculated Schumacher’s driving time for a stint.
That took the leading No. 74 car off the lead lap, but its chances to recover were dashed by no opportunities arising to take a wave-by under safety car conditions.
Race control deemed track conditions too wet for the Audi to take a wave-by during a safety car shortly after the penalty, condemning it to one lap down at the finish.
Audi’s best result of fourth came after R8s led all of the practice sessions and all but one of the four qualifying sessions in the lead-up to the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season-opener.
Its cars were handed a 15 kg weight increase in a post-qualifying Balance of Performance adjustment, but the No. 74 still set the best lap of the race in the hands of van der Linde.
“We misjudged the time that the Bronze had to do, and we overshot by about seven minutes,” Berthon told Sportscar365.
“We took two minutes for that: it’s a rule, and we have to accept it of course, but we didn’t gain any advantage. So it was a bit crazy to see that.
“Normally you are not doing enough track time, and for us now it was too much. This cost us the race.
“Kelvin was mega all day and was literally flying. On my case, in the wet it was always good, although it was difficult to judge because I was always in when it was damp.
“But the car was really good and I think we had the right package and the pace to do a good result, so it’s a bit disappointing.”
The other factory-driven Audi Sport Team Valvoline car was driven by Ricardo Feller, Markus Winkelhock and Yasser Shahin to seventh. They were already off the lead lap when they too received a penalty for exceeding their Bronze driver’s stint time, while the pole-sitting No. 65 Coinspot Audi retired after Fraser Ross struck the wall at the top of the mountain in hour eight.
Audi’s head of Customer Racing Chris Reinke still took the positives from the day as the No. 47 Supabarn crew took the Am-class win, but acknowledged that it had been a tough day in the overall stakes.
“Congratulations to Team Supabarn and the Melbourne Performance Centre entry team on this well-deserved class win,” said Reinke.
“Our privateer drivers mastered a great effort in particularly difficult conditions. Hats off to this performance.
“At the end, there were five Audi cars in the top ten, but we would have loved to fight for our fourth victory here. We had the pace for it.”