Raffaele Marciello believes that a likely victory in Sunday’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour was “stolen” from GruppeM Racing after being served what he says were unjustifiable penalties.
The defending Blancpain GT Series champion and co-drivers Maxi Buhk and Maxi Gotz took their No. 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to a third place finish, and second-place points in the Intercontinental GT Challenge season-opener, in a race that saw the bright yellow-colored entry handed a pair of drive-through penalties.
The first came in the sixth hour for a breach of the safety car protocol, when Buhk was found to have been warming his tires by weaving back and forth while behind the safety car prior to a restart.
It was followed by a second drive-through for passing under yellow when Marciello was at the wheel.
The penalties, occurring during a four-hour green flag period, dropped the pole-sitting Mercedes to the tail end of the lead lap, with clever pit strategy putting Marciello back in contention for a podium position on the final restart.
“I think we got stolen from a victory,” Marciello told Sportscar365. “I think the Australians treat [race procedures] in a different way to us.
“[Triple Eight] got a drive through and they were able to fight it and it got removed.
“We got two drive throughs. Mine, I didn’t pass under yellow flags. There are pictures as the yellow flag came behind me. We were not able to speak with [the officials].
“I think this is not fair. It’s a great event but they should treat everyone equal.
“We cannot change it. We finished P3. The drivers [can say] we did an amazing job, blah blah blah. But I’m not like this. We came here for a win.
“We did a good job but we didn’t do enough, maybe. So it’s a pity.”
A tactical call to triple stint their Pirelli tires in the end, however, paid off, with the Italian able to take the final podium position following a spirited fight with Shane van Gisbergen.
Marciello said the team also triple-stinted at the start, although under cooler conditions.
“We had a lot of time lost on track [to other cars] with shorter pit stops so we had to triple stint,” he said.
“I’m quite surprised the tires held up [so well]. The car handled very well and I lost a bit of traction at the end but I thought it would be much worse.
“A big thanks to Pirelli because the tires behaved very well.”