Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Kevin Tse led a one-two placing of Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos at the head of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour field with half the race remaining.
Six hours into the race, the driver of the No. 91 Mercedes-AMG ran 42 seconds ahead of Jules Gounon in the No. 75 SunEnergy Racing car run by the Triple Eight squad.
Prince Jefri Ibrahim was on course to make it an AMG one-two-three at halfway until the No. 888 Triple Eight driver pitted at the end of the sixth hour, promoting Yasser Shahin to third in the No. 777 Audi Sport Team Valvoline Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II.
Tse, Daniel Juncadella and Maro Engel climbed to the lead of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season-opener after starting from the back row of the grid, using an aggressive strategy to get their nine time-limited pit stops out of the way as early as possible.
Despite making 14 pit stops in the first six hours, the No. 91 Mercedes-AMG remained on the lead lap, thanks in part to the new safety car wave-by rule introduced for this year.
Craft-Bamboo completed its ninth 120-second ‘compulsory’ pit stop under the sixth and most recent safety car of the race, which occurred after three hours and 40 minutes due to fog impairing visibility on Mount Panorama.
Juncadella took the ensuing restart behind the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo IIs driven by Markus Winkelhock, Chaz Mostert, David Reynolds and Brad Schumacher but moved into the lead when the cars ahead pitted shortly into the green flag run.
Craft-Bamboo then led through the fifth hour, when all cars returned to slick tires, before Juncadella handed the No. 91 car over to Bronze-rated driver Kevin Tse.
The Macanese racer was overtaken by Luca Stolz in the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG at the Elbow, but regained the top spot with an 86-second buffer when the No. 75 car pitted for a driver change to Gounon who set off to reel back the deficit.
In the sixth hour, the pole-sitting No. 65 Coinspot Audi run by Melbourne Performance Centre encountered trouble when it pitted off-schedule with an air compressor problem.
Mostert took the lead from Winkelhock just after the most recent safety car restart, but the issue dropped the reigning Bathurst 1000 winner and his co-driver Fraser Ross and Liam Talbot 10 laps off the leader.
With six hours in the books, Tony Bates ran fourth in the No. 24 Audi, ahead of Ibrahim’s pitting Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG and Schumacher aboard the No. 74 Audi.