The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour, now just a week away, continues to grow in importance on the Australian and global racing calendar. The 12-Hour endurance race at Mt Panorama is now attracting manufacturers, teams and drivers from all over the world.
This year’s race, 5th - 7th February, is already set for a record crowd with four times the number of camping sites (compared to 2015) already sold for the race.
Nissan is back to defend the team’s 2015 title, fielding a single factory backed GT-R NISMO GT3. Leading the team will be 2015 winning drivers Katsumasa Chiyo (Japan) and Florian Strauss (Germany).
Local Nissan factory V8 Supercars driver Rick Kelly will re-join the team after sitting out last years’ race. In an effort to claim back-to-back victories, Nissan has enlisted both the local Nissan Motorsport team and the NISMO Athlete Global team to run the car.
Bentley is also back, again enlisting the help of the UK’s M-Sport operation to field a two-car factory backed Bentley Continental GT3 assault on Mt Panorama.
After missing out on a podium in the closing minutes of the 2015 race, Bentley has unfinished business on the mountain.
Leading the Bentley charge will be the British factory trio of Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Matt Bell. The second Continental GT3 will have an international line up, with Spain’s Andy Soucek, Belgium’s Maxime Soulet and Australian driver David Russell.
McLaren will tackle Bathurst with a factory supported effort for the first time this year.
Emerging fan favourites, McLaren has shipped-in two 650S GT3s to run with the assistance of Australian V8 Supercar team TEKNO Autosports.
TEKNO’s support of the McLaren team extends to it’s drivers with Shane Van Gisbergen, Jonothan Webb and new signing Will Davison joining McLaren’s international drivers Alvaro Parente (Portugal), Rob Bell (UK) and Andrew Watson (UK) for the race.
There will also be a couple of local 650S on the grid, one of which will be run by Australian GT regulars Objective Racing. Tony Walls, who owns the car, will lead the team, however he’s recruited some notable local drivers in Tim Slade, Warren Luff and Matt Campbell to fill in co-driver duties.
Darrell Lea’s Tony Quinn is back with his 650S, he’ll have the assistance of his son Klark Quinn and Kiwi Craig Baird for the race.
While Ferrari won't be able to debut the new 488 GT3 at Mt Panorama, there will three 458 GT3’s on the grid, including 2014 winners Maranello Motorsport.
Maranello Motorsport also have unfinished business at The Mountain after being fastest during practice in 2015, they crashed out in qualifying leaving them unable to take to the grid for the race. They’ve enlisted former-Formula 1 driver Mika Salo (Finland) and Ferrari GT ace Toni Villander (Finland) to lead their effort, with the support of Australian driver Tony D’Alberto.
Trofeo Motorsport and Vicious Rumour Racing will also be fielding Ferraris.
German marque Audi will be very strongly represented with its new R8 LMS (which debuted mid-way through 2015) with seven entries for the race. After finishing second last year, Germany’s Phoenix Racing will again lead the charge for Audi with a single-car entry.
Audi’s top factory drivers, Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Markus Winkelhock (Germany) will be at the wheel this year, with local driver Alex Davison bringing Bathurst experience to the team.
Australia’s leading local Audi teams Jamec Pem Racing and Melbourne Performance Center will also challenge, with both teams fielding multiple cars.
Jamec Pem Racing has gone all-out for this year’s race, recruiting Christopher Mies (Germany), Christopher Haase (Germany), Marco Mapelli (Italy), Steve McLaughlin (Australia), Rene Rast (Germany) and Garth Tander (Australia) for the race.
The group has a combined one Bathurst 12-Hour, two Bathurst 1000, two Spa 24-Hour and three Nurburgring 24-Hour victories.
Mercedes-Benz will also have a presence on the grid with four SLS AMG GT3s .
2013 Bathurst 12-Hour winners Erebus Motorsport will again be leading the charge with two of the four SLS AMG GT3s. V8 Supercars driver Dean Canto joins with Richard Muscat and Jack Le Brocq in the first car.
Also carrying Erebus colours will be 16 year-old US sensation Austin Cindric – the youngest driver ever to compete at the event – joining Aussie Formula 3 racers Simon Hodge and Nathan Morcom in the second Erebus entry.
Australia’s Garth Walden Racing and Germany’s MISHUMOTORS will both field single-car entries carrying the three-pointed star.
Rounding out the 24 outright contenders, Lamborghini will be represented by local Australian GT Championship teams fielding three Gallardos on the grid.
Roger Lago has brought in Bathurst 1000 regulars Luke Youlden and Steve Owen for his entry in the 12-Hour. While Justin McMillan’s M Motorsport has recruited John McIntyre, Dale Wood and Glen Wood for the race.
Newcomers, Performance West Motorsport, have enlisted the help of V8 Supercars Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport including star driver Nick Percat, who will lead the team and be joined by Peter Rullo and Scott Andrews.
The rest of the 40-strong field will be divided up by Class B, Class C and Class I competitors.
Class B is made up of GT3 Cup Cars, with seven entries from Australian and New Zealand Porsche/Carrera Cup teams. The early favourites for Class B are Grove Motorsport with Stephen Grove bringing in Le Mans 24-Hour winner Earl Bamber and V8 Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin for the 12-Hour.
The GT4 specification cars will fight it out for Class C honours. Leading the Class C field will be Germany’s PRO Sport Performance who is bringing two Porsche Cayman Pro 4s to compete in the race.
Class I, or the invitational class, will again host an eclectic collection of cars. The key race will be amongst the five MARC Cars Australia entries, with three Ford Focus V8s and two Mazda 3 V8s running just shy of the outright pace.
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