Both Marc Lieb and Matt Campbell believe they had strong chances for overall victory in Sunday’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour had the race run green to the end.
A heavy three-car accident at the top of the Mountain with 20 minutes to go eventually led to a race-ending red flag, following a gripping final hour fuel mileage race that saw the No. 37 WRT Audi R8 LMS of Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor pick up victory.
The WRT Audi, as well as the second-placed No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, however, would have unlikely had made it to the finish without pitting for a splash of fuel.
It had put the pair of U.S.-based Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, driven by Lieb and Campbell in the closing stints, in prime position for outright honors, having been go longer on fuel throughout the race.
Lieb, who was running third, came under attack from a hard-charging Campbell in the No. 12 Competition Motorsports Porsche, who pitted two laps after the German and appeared to be in the best fuel position out of the top-five cars.
“We were obviously catching [Lieb] so quickly; he was fuel saving,” Campbell told Sportscar365.
“Each lap we were hunting him down and getting closer and closer. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get there in the end.
“We were unlucky with the red flag. Lieby would have put on a tough fight. Who knows.”
Lieb’s fuel conservation run also nearly paid off, as the former LMP1 World Champion said he was “good to go” to the end just moments before the eventual race-ending yellow was called.
“We started to go racing again and when we were safe to go to the end, Matty wasn’t catching us as much as when we were saving fuel. We were looking good,” Lieb told Sportscar365.
While finishing third overall, the No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche of Lieb and co-drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz and team owner Tim Pappas claimed Pro-Am class honors.
It came after a challenging start to the weekend for the team, in its Bathurst debut.
“We’re really happy; for this team, coming from the U.S., setting everything up with a container and showing up and winning Pro-Am and finishing third overall is just fantastic,” Lieb said.
“We were 26th in qualifying. But we followed our strategy, we saw it last year.
“This one is just to survive the first eight or nine hours and the race starts, and that’s what we did. And it was really, really good.”
Campbell’s co-driver David Calvert Jones, however, believes his young gun was in the best position for overall victory.
A call by race strategist Stefan Pfeiffer to pit the No. 12 Porsche as the field took the second-to-final restart gave the car two additional laps of fuel than the competition.
“We had the fuel strategies perfect,” Calvert-Jones told Sportscar365. “It was just unfortunate with 12 minutes to go [as] Matt would have passed Marc without doubt and the other two guys would have run out of fuel, literally.
“I think we were there for an outright win. It didn’t happen but that’s racing and we did our best.”
Ironically, Lieb had joined Campbell, Calvert-Jones and Patrick Long on the overall podium last year in the Competition Porsche, finishing second and collecting Pro-Am class honors.