Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winners Maranello Motorsport have declared its intentions to defend its 2017 victory by returning to the race next February.
Entries for Australia’s international enduro officially opened on Monday and the Ferrari team has been vocal about their desire to achieve a rare Bathurst back-to-back.
To be held on February 2-4, the Bathurst 12 Hour is again expected to attract a world-class field of both cars and drivers from both Australia and overseas.
Maranello Motorsport secured their second 12-hour victory – and the second win for Ferrari in the race – earlier this year with drivers Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Toni Vilander.
The victory came after a thrilling final-hour battle with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Shane van Gisbergen, Maro Engel and Craig Baird.
Team owner Mark Coffey said the team was working hard to ensure they were back next February.
“We have supported the Bathurst 12 Hour every year since it became a GT race and we’re already working on our plans to come back next year,” Coffey said.
“Things didn’t go to plan when we tried to defend our 2014 win so we want to come back next year and see if we can go back-to-back, which has only been achieved once before in the GT era.
“The Bathurst 12 hour has become a ‘must win’ race on the GT schedule and we’re proud to represent Ferrari every year. It is our intention to do so again in 2018.”
The outright GT3 class will again be split into divisions, with the Pro, Pro/Am and Am categories to return.
The Pro-Am Cup, for entries featuring a mixture of Professional and Amateur drivers, is likely to be hotly contested having been won this year by David Calvert-Jones, Matt Campbell, Patrick Long and Marc Lieb driving a Porsche 911 GT3 R – a car that also finished second outright in the race.
The ‘Am’ division was won by the Walkinshaw Racing Porsche driven by Liam Talbot, John Martin and Duvashen Padayachee, who finished fourth outright.
Talbot said a strong result in 2017 only encourages a return effort the following year.
“Looking back t this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour, we had a perfect race. Our team made perfect pitstops and strategy and we showed what was possible with a win (in Am),” the former Spa 24 Hour class winner said.
“I’m hopeful of a return next year and challenging more for an outright podium – after coming so close with fourth and the Am class win.”
While the outright and Pro-Am Cup battles for GT3 machinery is expected to be as competitive as ever, the fight for honours in the rapidly expanding GT4 class is also set to be a highlight.
Won this year by a Porsche Cayman GT4 entered German team PRO Sport Performance, the newest GT class has seen an influx of competitors in key international series with that boom set to flow to Australian shores as the 2017 season progresses.
This year cars from KTM, Ginetta and Porsche contested the category however that was set to be just the beginning for the class.
In addition to an influx of expected stand-alone GT4 teams, several manufacturers have expressed their intentions to enter cars in both GT classes.
“It’s certainly our intention to enter the BMW M6 GT3 and, under the right circumstances, the brand-new BMW M4 GT4 in the 2017 race,” BMW Team SRM team owner Steven Richards said.
Richards’ team entered a pair of M6 GT3 entries this year but said the opportunity to expand to the GT4 class was high on their agenda.
“The BMW M4 GT4 made its racing debut at the Dubai 24 Hour race earlier this year and there are plans for a full customer racing program in 2018. With the growth of GT4 around the world we’re working with BMW to make sure the car is in Australia, and racing it at Bathurst would be the ideal place to showcase the car, so that’s what we are working towards.”