Phillip Island comes alive this weekend with the inaugural round of the Australian Endurance GT Championship, and there is some fancied machinery and a clutch of international drivers in the large 30-car field.
And alongside the BMW-backed SRM Team BMW M6 GT3, MARC GT racing will have its brand-new BMW M6 GT3 lining up on the grid with former DTR champion and now BMW works driver Bruno Spengler at the wheel.
Spengler flew in yesterday to team with MARC GT driver Morgan Haber for the 101-lap endurance event.
That Spengler is here – his services offered to Ryan McLeod’s MARC GT racing by BMW – is a sign of the growing importance of this kind of car racing to the premium brands. It is huge in Europe and Asia, where it is heavily supported by factory teams (“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”), and is gathering a rapidly growing audience here.
The new M6 GT3, despite its development in Europe, has only had one shakedown at Queensland Raceway, and will no doubt present its challenges for Ryan McLeod’s MARC GT team. And, though being piloted by one of Europe’s top touring car drivers, French-Canadian Spengler (above) has never been to Australia and never seen Phillip Island.
He has, however, he told TMR just hours after he landed yesterday, studied the circuit “on You Tube”.
“It’s a new track for me, it will be a challenge,” he said.
The new BMW M6 GT3 made its debut in January this year, and, on only its second outing, the 24-hour at “the green hell”, the Nürburgring, secured third place on the podium. It also secured second in Sebring USA, despite carrying a two-minute penalty for a pit lane violation. So it’s fast, no question there.
Practice and qualifying begins today for both the Australian GT Championship and the 101-lap Australian Endurance Championship, with racing Saturday and Sunday.
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