Since the 60’s, Bathurst has hosted some of the most gruelling racing ever held on Australian soil, with the Bathurst 1000 running each year, as well as 12 and 24 hour races held at various times in the past. The past few years have seen the interest in the 12 hour race reach new heights, with several national and international teams heading to Mount Panorama for a chance to take on the mountain; all 6.2km of it.
Last year’s winners, Team Phoenix Racing were back in the R8 LMS, as were Erebus Racing with their SLS AMG’s and Clearwater Racing in their 458.
It takes a bit of time to get to the track from Melbourne, but the drive has some interesting sights along the way…
Most of the year the track is a public road with houses located around it. This means that if you get to Bathurst early enough before a race weekend, you can drive around the track and get a small idea of what it’s like for the drivers on race day. I say small idea, because there is a strictly enforced speed limit of 60km/h.
Veteran V8 Supercar driver Greg Murphy was back in a Corvette GT3 run by Trofeo motorsport.
Greg had been injured the past season, but was back looking to stir things up in the Corvette.
Several other classes would be running the 12 hour event alongside the main GT3 field, including production cars, invitational cars and drivers, as well as GT4 cars like the V8 Vantage run by Aston Martin St. Gallen. The Erebus SLS’ were looking to put an end to Audi’s domination of the Bathurst 12 hour from the past few years.
Race veteran, Mal Rose was running his Commodore in the invitational class. Mal is no stranger to endurance racing, having competed several times in international events, including the Nürburgring 24HR.
Saturday’s 90 minute qualifying session was designed to allow all of the teams a chance to run on race day. It meant that the fastest teams could only qualify with a lap time over 2:06 minutes. If you went under the 2:06, the time would not be allowed and the team would get a 50kg weight penalty for race day. Someone forgot to tell Allan Simonsen in the Il Bello Rosso 458, who set a time on Saturday of 2:05.5 – a new record at the mountain for a GT car.
The Z4 GT3 of Team Engstler Liqui Moly didn’t make the trip to Bathurst from Germany to sit mid field. However, in all endurance racing, casualties do happen and the muscular Z4 GT3 retired after only 34 laps, after a meeting with a concrete wall at McPhillamy Park.
France’s Team Peugeot RCZ cars in the Class 1 invitational class had also competed in several endurance races in 2012 and were keen to give Mt. Panorama a crack.Even just to experience why competing at the track is on so many drivers wish lists.
One of the reasons why drivers love this track is its elevation change. A total of 174m from the bottom of the mountain to the top, and once at the top, it is a quick descent down.
With over 60 entrants in the main race, the quicker GT cars were also having to contend with traffic of the lower classes. Other races, especially the N24 have this issue, but with the Mountain being much smaller, it meant that traffic was a constant issue for everyone. Tight bends and big drops didn’t do any favours to the drivers either.
Keen to make it third time a charm, Craig Lowndes, Warren Luff and Rod Salmon were hoping that their third trip to Mt. Panorama would yield the success they had previously just missed out on. It wasn’t to be though, and after 162 laps they had to start planning next year’s attempt.
This year’s race had a later start than that of last year, with a 7am kick off.
A long day ahead for both drivers and crew; despite it being an endurance race, most of the drivers would push hard and turn it into a 12 hour sprint race.
With the sun peeking up over the surrounding hills, it made it very easy to get amazing shots in the early morning light.
The dust that had settled overnight was thrown into the air as 60 cars tore past the starter’s flag for the first time, and with three wide into “Hell’s Corner”, no one was going to give an inch in the opening stages of the race.
Only a few scratches and bumps from turn one as the field started up Mountain Straight for the first time.
Erebus’s SLS AMG aka ‘The Purple Monster’, driven by Australian locals, settled into an early lead followed by the Malaysian team of Clearwater Racing and Il Bello Rosso.
Normally shooting into the sun is frowned upon, but with the early morning light you could shoot any direction you liked and still get amazing results. It doesn’t hurt that the subject matter is an SLS.
Clearwater Racing’s 458 was really popping in the morning light.
A pair of very formidable cars in any endurance race; Peter Conroy’s R8 LMS chasing down the Equity One R8 LMS out of the Chase corners.
All three cars pictured had looked very promising during the practice sessions and qualifying, however none of them would end up crossing the finish line on Sunday, either from mechanical problems or getting tangled with other cars and ending up in a wall.
Erebus Motorsport SLS “Killer Bee”, driven by the German all star team of Alex Roloff, Thomas Jager and Bernd Schneider; all three had had various levels of success throughout Europe and the world in the past 12 months and were looking to add Mt. Panorama to their extensive list of wins.
Heading down to Forrest Elbow, where the cars continue their descent back down to the track’s lowest point. Exiting Forrest Elbow, they are able to get a good run onto Conrod Straight where cars will see 300km/h before slowing for the Chase.
Accelerating up to 300km/h down Conrod Straight is when most of the drivers will take a mental break from the racing at hand, as strange as that seems. The long straight is a good time for them to grab a quick drink and recharge mentally, before climbing back up the Mountain.
Unless you are Craig Baird driving the Clearwater 458, who was setting blistering times to get back onto the lead lap, after a few incidents earlier involving some of his teammates.
Taken from the top of the track looking down toward Conrod straight.
Shooting again into the sun and dropping the exposure a few stops made for some interesting silhouettes.
High drama in the pits as one of the Porsches in group B came into the pits, stopped and brought the fire response crew into action.
‘The Cutting’ as it’s known, where several accidents have occurred over the weekend as the cars climb up the Mountain.
One of several retirements from the race was the Sherrin Rentals 135i, whose motor/turbo let go in a big way down through the dipper.
Oil in the dipper isn’t ideal – not when the track drops so quickly in the space of a few meters.
It turns the Australian GT Champ Klark Quinn’s Porsche GT3R into a three wheelin’ trike, it drops that much.
As the afternoon wore on and several safety cars later, the clouds started rolling over the track bringing with it a bit of a cool change that would be interesting for the drivers and teams.
Chasing a spot on the podium was last year’s winners, Phoenix Racing, in the white/yellow/black R8 LMS. Hoping that the change in weather might catch a few of the teams in front out and meaning that they could nab that podium spot.
The GT-R safety car made one more appearance on the track before the heavens opened up.
A storm cell had moved over the track and proceeded to dump a few inches of water in minutes.
Even after a green flag, the front three were not game enough to push hard with slicks still on their cars, creating a bow wave as they pushed through the river on the track at little more than jogging pace.
Some of the other teams saw it as a good opportunity to make up precious seconds in the last hour of the race.
As soon as it started, it stopped, leaving a few spots of light to filter through the clouds.
That didn’t last too long either, as another storm front moved through with strong winds and rain, with only 20 minutes to the end of the race remaining.
With the light fading away behind the clouds, the brake glow as cars slowed from 300km/h to around 80km/h was becoming quite noticeable.
After 12 hours at Bathurst, the Killer Bee SLS from Erebus racing took line honours.
The entire team was over the moon, especially since they had ended the dominance of the Audi’s at Bathurst.
Second place went to Clearwater Racing in their 458.
Whilst third went to the GT3R from VIP Pet Foods.
The boys and girls from ‘We Are Legend’ grabbed my eye as their car took out second in Group B, with their awesome nordic hats and pigtails.
Everybody was already drenched, so what’s a little champagne in the mix as well?
I cannot wait for next year’s event, which promises to be bigger and better again.
Additional Photography by Justin Power
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