After Daytona and Dubai, the twelve-hour race in Bathurst, Australia is the third major long-distance race of the season. On the Mount Panorama Circuit in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, the Walkinshaw GT3 team will field a Porsche 911 GT3 R on 5 February with factory backing from Porsche Motorsport. The customer sports racer kicked off the 2017 motorsport season with a convincing double victory at Dubai and celebrated its first success at Daytona, last weekend. In Bathurst, it will tackle the Class A-GT3 Pro-Pro against strong opposition from Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Nissan. At the twelve-hour race in the state of New South Wales, 56 vehicles from 14 automobile manufacturers will compete in six different categories. No less than 14 Porsches will be competing in this event, and they include: 911 GT3 R, 911 GT3 Cup and Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
The Bathurst 12 Hour is one of the world’s most spectacular sports car races and the first round of the 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge. The Mount Panorama Circuit on the outskirts of Bathurst, 200 kilometres west of Sydney, sits at an altitude of 670 metres and is regarded as the ‘Home of Australian Motor Racing.’ One of the peculiarities of the race, inaugurated in 1991, is that the start takes place in the dark at 5.45 in the morning.
The 6.213km Mount Panorama Circuit offers an extraordinary mix of 23 fast and slow corners. The picturesque rollercoaster track has gradients of up to 16 percent, with a 174-metre elevation variance between the Pit Straight and the Skyline, the highest and lowest points of the circuit, which is run in a counter-clockwise direction. For most of the year the racetrack, built as part of an employment relief effort in the 1930s, serves as a public road.
The Porsche drivers
The cockpit of the Walkinshaw 911 GT3 R (#911) will be shared by Porsche works drivers Earl Bamber, Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor, as they contest the Class A-GT3 Pro-Pro category. In the 911 GT3 R of Competition Motorsports (#12), factory driver Patrick Long will be joined by Marc Lieb in the Class A GT3 Pro-Am. They will be supported by two local aces, Porsche Junior Matt Campbell and David Calvert-Jones.
Other Porsche customer teams also campaigning the 911 GT3 R include Craft Bamboo Racing (A-GT3 Pro-Pro), AMAC Motorsport (A-GT3 AM) and Walkinshaw GT3 with a second car (A-GT3 AM). Grove Motorsport will line up to contest the Class B-GT3 with a 911 GT3 Cup.
The Bathurst 12 Hour takes off on Sunday, 5 February, at 05h45 local time (Saturday, 19h45 CET). Outside Australia, the event can be viewed live on the Internet on: www.bathurst12hour.com.au.
Alex Stehlig, Programme Manager Bathurst: “This race is unique and poses a very complex challenge. With the 911 GT3 R we already underlined in Macau and Sepang that we have a reliable and competitive car. With Walkinshaw GT3 running the vehicle, we tackle this legendary race, which enjoys a high profile both within Australia and internationally, feeling well prepared.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager GT Customer Motorsport: “The special challenge of this racetrack is to find the best compromise between downforce and drag when setting up the 911 GT3 R. The uphill passage between Griffin’s Mount and Skyline as the highest point is taken at a speed of between 170- and 200km/h, requiring a great deal of downforce to ensure stable handling. On the long Conrod straight, the cars then reach up to 280km/h, and this speed can only be achieved with low drag.”
Earl Bamber (#911): “I’m looking forward to returning to Bathurst and to chase overall victory for the first time at this great race with the 911 GT3 R. The field of almost 60 cars and the fact that many great drivers are coming from all over the world shows just how important this race has become.”
Kévin Estre (#911): “I drove in Bathurst two years ago and I loved it. It’s one of those tradition-steeped racetracks that I like so much – a little crazy, but very demanding and with its very own character.”
Laurens Vanthoor (#911): “Mount Panorama Circuit is one of my all-time favourite racetracks. It reminds me of the Nordschleife at the Nürburgring, it’s just as fascinating and diverse, but equally as tricky. If you turn the fastest qualifying lap here and plant your car on pole position, you feel really alive. I’ve raced at Bathurst three times. It’s the only long distance race in the GT3 category that I’ve not yet won, so I’m totally determined to win with Porsche.”
Marc Lieb (#12): “It’ll really get down to the nitty gritty at Mount Panorama, so much is certain. Bathurst has everything that makes a great endurance race, it’s a very demanding circuit with lots of cars and strong drivers from all over the world.”
Patrick Long (#12): “The grid is without doubt the strongest in the history of this race. I’m looking forward to Bathurst and the many fans who always create a great atmosphere. This’ll be my third time competing at this unique venue and I think that with Marc, Matt and David, we have a good chance for a top result.”
Matt Campbell (#12): “To contest my first race as a Porsche Junior in Bathurst of all places, and to team up with racing greats such as Marc and Patrick, is a very special start to the season. I’m certain that this will be an important and unforgettable experience.”
For the full 2017 INTERCONTINENTAL GT CHALLENGE calendar click here
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche