12 hours around Australia’s awesome 6.2km Mount Panorama circuit in the dry would be challenging enough, but the 2012 running of the 12 Hours enduro at the track threw in over nine hours of rain and fog just to make things that much tougher. Come the flag, it was again an Audi R8 LMS that crossed the line first, just like a year ago, but in very different conditions.
Late summer sun had bathed the Down Under circuit over the preceding days, giving everyone a falsely positive idea of how the weather would turn out for the weekend… So much for that idea!
Qualifying times were set by an aggregate of time of each car’s set of drivers across two qualifying periods – a fair way of averaging out performance and giving all teams the chance of a fair slot on the grid.
Phoenix Racing’s #1 Audi R8 LMS claimed pole, followed by a pair of Ferrari 458s – around 30 cars would be taking part, split across various classes: basically GT3 cars at the top of the pile backed up by a mix of touring cars and silhouettes, rather like at the Dubai 24 Hours.
Plenty of European teams had made the pilgrimage to Bathurst, including a couple of teams who had competed in last month’s Dubai 24 Hours (this race is actually run by the same organisers) such as Black Falcon and United Autosport. Many international names in GT joined local teams, which included a smattering of Aussie V8 competitors.
The race started in the pitch black at 6.15am local time, running through the dawn and into… the murk of fog and rain that was Saturday.
Many went up the Mountain… not all came back down again. Unsurprisingly, the conditions accounted for a large number of drivers through the race – a third of the field by the flag, in fact – including a number of front-running cars. The Black Falcon Mercedes crashed as the driver was adjusting his traction control – the wrong way for the terrible conditions, as it happened. The Mountain was happy to claim all-comers: Lamborghinis, Audis and Ferraris, none were safe from the unforgiving walls.
For the last third of the race it came down to three cars at the front: one surviving Phoenix Audi against the Erebus Racing Mercedes SLS and the Clearwater Ferrari 458. The Audi’s wet-weather performance clinched the deal, and they held off the opposition to take the win by just over a minute from the SLS.
Behind the GT3s, a Nissan GT-R was victorious in Class C – the Donut King car ran faultlessly and beat a trio of Lotus Exiges and a Corvette.
The Maximum Motorsports Subaru had been leading in Class D until a blown turbo hit them with just a quarter of the race to go. The team repaired it and recovered to second but couldn’t catch the class-winning Holden HSV GTS.
There was a special Invitational class to hoover up cars that didn’t fit into the main categories: a Seat Leon TDi and Mazda RX7 were the main competitors there, finishing first and second respectively.
Like Dubai, the Bathurst 12 Hours is definitely an event with a bright future: it’s another great way for GT teams to keep in shape during the European off-season, and even better an excuse to get to drive at Bathurst. As if that needed an excuse… They’ll just be hoping for more appropriate beer-and-BBQ weather next year!
All images courtesy of Bathurst 12 Hours