Intercontinental GT Challenge, round 1, Bathurst 12 Hour, Australia
The twelve-hour race in Bathurst/Australia is the third major long distance race of the season after Daytona and Dubai. On the selective Mount Panorama Circuit in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, the Walkinshaw GT3 team fields a 500+hp Porsche 911 GT3 R on 5 February with factory backing from Porsche Motorsport. The customer sports racer, developed in Weissach on the basis on the 911 GT3 RS production sports car, 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 top 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 – an event that is growing in popularity around the world – 56 vehicles from 14 automobile manufacturers will compete in six different categories. Competing amongst them are 14 Porsche models; the 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 Intercontinental GT Challenge. With the Mount Panorama Circuit on the outskirts, Bathurst, 200 kilometres west of Sydney at an altitude of 670 metres on the Macquarie River, is regarded as the “Home of Australian Motor Racing.” One of the peculiarities of the 1991-inaugurated race is that the start takes place in the dark at 5.45 in the morning. The other events on the calendar of the 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge are the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), the eight-hour race in Laguna Seca (USA) and the 12 Hours of Sepang (Malaysia).
The 6.213-kilometre 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. The circuit runs counter clockwise. For most of the year the storied racetrack, built as a part of an employment relief effort in the 1930s, serves as a public road.
The Porsche drivers
The cockpit of the 911 GT3 R fielded by Walkinshaw GT3 with the starting number 911 is shared by Porsche works drivers Earl Bamber (New Zealand), overall Le Mans winner of 2015, Kévin Estre (France) as well as Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), the 2016 winner of the FIA GT World and the Intercontinental GT Challenge. They will contest the Top Class A-GT3 Pro-Pro. In the 911 GT3 R of Competition Motorsports (#12) their factory driver colleague Patrick Long (USA) joins forces with Marc Lieb (Germany), the 2016 outright winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the winner of the FIA World Endurance Championship, to tackle the Class A-GT3 Pro-Am. They are supported by two local aces, Porsche Junior Matt Campbell and David Calvert-Jones. Other Porsche customer teams also campaigning the 911 GT3 R are Craft Bamboo Racing (A-GT3 Pro-Pro), AMAC Motorsport (A-GT3 AM) and Walkinshaw GT3 with a second car (A-GT3 Am). Grove Motorsport, 2016 class winner with Earl Bamber, will line up to contest the Class B-GT3 with a 911 GT3 Cup.
The Porsche vehicles
The 911 GT3 R was designed by Porsche for worldwide GT3 series on the basis of the 911 GT3 RS production sports car. Mounted with the new ultra-modern, four-litre flat-six engine with direct fuel injection, the 368 kW (500 hp) customer sports racer celebrated its race debut in January 2016 at the Daytona 24-hour race. In its development, engineers put special emphasis on uncompromising lightweight design, improved aerodynamic efficiency, lower fuel consumption and even better driveability. Already in its maiden season, the 911 GT3 R celebrated many successes in international racing series, for example in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the World Challenge, the ADAC GT Masters as well as the VLN Long Distance Championship Nürburgring on the demanding Nordschleife.
The Bathurst 12 Hour takes off on Sunday, 5 February, at 5:45 hrs local time (Saturday, 19:45 hrs 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. The characteristic of the track is very tricky. It consists of a flat section with long straights where overtaking is easy, and a hilly passage that is very much like the Nordschleife and the demands on the drivers are just as high. 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 selective 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 200 kilometres an hour. This requires a great deal of downforce to ensure stable handling. On the long Conrod straight, the cars then reach up to 280 kph. This speed can only be achieved with low drag.”
Earl Bamber (911 GT3 R #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. We already performed strongly with the 911 GT3 R last year in Macau and Sepang, so we feel our chances also look good for Bathurst. This is one of the major races and aside from Le Mans it’s definitely a highlight of the year for me.”
Kévin Estre (911 GT3 R #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. I’m really looking forward to the race. Just one week after Daytona we’re heading to a different continent, with another car and another team, we’re virtually starting from zero. This is one of those challenges that’s difficult but great fun at the same time.”
Laurens Vanthoor (911 GT3 R #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. You know that you’ve pushed all the limits and have achieved something great. 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 (911 GT3 R #12): “It’ll really get down to the nitty gritty at Mount Panorama, so much in certain. Bathurst has everything that makes a great endurance race: A very demanding circuit, lots of cars and strong drivers from all over the world – it’s no wonder that this race is gaining in popularity. I’m very much looking forward to racing in Bathurst with the 911 GT3 R and to see how it performs on this unique racetrack.”
Patrick Long (911 GT3 R #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 good chances for a top result.”
Matt Campbell (911 GT3 R #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. I thank Porsche and my team for their trust.”