Mercedes-AMG factory driver Jules Gounon led a close-fought Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour at the halfway mark for defending race winner SunEnergy1 Racing.
Gounon ran 18 seconds ahead of Manthey EMA Porsche driver Mathieu Jaminet after six hours of racing, with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos of Supercheap Auto Racing and GruppeM Racing close behind.
The Akkodis ASP-run SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG led the race overall despite making double the amount of trips down pit lane compared to most other Pro entries.
Gounon’s co-driver Luca Stolz moved into the lead when cars ahead of him pitted at the start of the sixth hour, and managed to complete his car’s seventh stop — or eighth total pit visit after an earlier drive-through penalty — without losing the position.
A newly-installed Gounon then gained several seconds on Jaminet leading up to the midway point, as the Manthey EMA driver battled to keep Supercheap Auto’s Broc Feeney and GruppeM Racing’s Raffaele Marciello at bay.
Manthey EMA led for a long stretch after the German-Australian squad leapfrogged the Triple Eight-run Supercheap Auto car in the pits during the fourth hour.
That lead change occurred under the third safety car period of the race, which was caused by an accident for the Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG approaching the Dipper following a tangle with the Supabarn Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II.
Manthey driver Thomas Preining kept the lead through another safety car for Nineteen Corporation’s Mercedes-AMG GT4 stopping in the Hell Corner runoff, and went on to build a five-second advantage from there.
Preining’s original pursuer Shane van Gisbergen pitted to send the Supercheap Auto Mercedes-AMG off-sequence, leaving BMW M Team WRT’s Augusto Farfus and Sheldon van der Linde to pick up the chase.
Those three pitted simultaneously after five hours, at which point SunEnergy1 took the reins of the race with the Porsche in second and the BMW M4 GT3s eventually slotting in behind the Mercedes-AMGs from Supercheap Auto and GruppeM.
Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Mercedes-AMG was also in contention approaching the second half and all Pro cars except the retired No. 74 Audi held places on the lead lap.
With six hours remaining, the top seven cars were Pro competitors, with the highest Pro-Am entry being the No. 777 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi in eighth.
Christopher Mies in MPC’s The Bend-liveried Audi had around 35 seconds in hand over Chaz Mostert aboard the No. 65 Audi, followed by Tony Bates Racing’s Mercedes-AMG.