Matt Campbell felt that it was “not a bad day” for Manthey EMA at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour despite the Porsche team narrowly missing out on the overall win.
Campbell brought the No. 912 Porsche 911 GT3 R home in second place, nine-tenths of a second behind the victorious SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo and half a second ahead of Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing.
The Australian, who shared the wheel with Thomas Preining and Mathieu Jaminet, assessed that the Mercedes-AMG package was “just too fast today” to be beaten for the win at Mount Panorama Circuit.
Manthey EMA executed some notable long runs during the race as its drivers saved fuel to gain an advantage during pit stop cycles.
“In the end I tried my very best and a little bit too much at times,” Campbell said, referring to a wall touch on the Mountain as he hunted down Jules Gounon in the closing laps.
“They were just too fast today, unfortunately. I was able to close the gap, but I wasn’t able to get close enough in the end.
“I think we maximized what we had in the performance of our car. As a team, Thomas and Mathieu, I think we did a fantastic job all day with no mistakes and also by the team on strategy.
“We were trying our best in the middle part of the day with some fuel saving and whatnot and trying to make up some time in the pits, which was working well for us.
“But in the end we finished second, so not a bad day.”
Manthey EMA gave Campbell, who was Porsche’s Bathurst 12 Hour hero in 2019, a set of new Pirelli slick tires at his final pit stop.
A double-stinting strategy from SunEnergy1 Racing ensured that Gounon jumped ahead of the Porsche and the leading GruppeM Mercedes-AMG, which had been delayed due to a data logger and modem swap.
Campbell reckoned that Manthey EMA had no option but to fit new tires to its Type-991.2 Porsche, meaning that it spent more time on pit road than if it had double-stinted.
When asked if Manthey could have double-stinted like the SunEnergy1 car at the end, he said: “Unfortunately not for us. We would have liked to but we just think we didn’t have the performance on a second run. We would have lost out even more.
“Unfortunately, we had to take that gamble. It almost paid off, with luckily the two friends coming together. But nevertheless, it was a good day and we’ll take second.”
The start of Campbell’s final stint saw him drop to around 12 seconds behind the battling Mercedes-AMGs of Engel and Gounon.
After the pair collided at the Chase with 48 minutes to go and Engel slid to third due to a penalty, Campbell appeared to turn up the wick and got to within a second of Gounon at the checkered flag.
Part of the thinking was to save the Porsche’s tires in case a safety car period bunched the leaders up.
“We knew we didn’t have anywhere near the pace, so we were just trying to manage and save the tire [for the end] because we could see them fighting,” Campbell explained.
“Once they came together, we pushed. But to be honest, if I was pushing from the beginning, I probably would have only been within nine seconds and that still wouldn’t have been enough. Even if we did push, we still wouldn’t have had a chance.
“As soon as we got behind the Mercedes, we couldn’t go any faster.”