In what proved a popular victory for trackside fans, Nissan broke a somewhat enforced ’drought’ at the iconic Mount Panorama circuit spanning 23 years.
Not since Jim Richards called the crowd a “pack of arseholes” in 1992 have Nissan drivers stood on the top step of the Bathurst podium, and the GT-R made its move with only minutes remaining in the race.
The number 35 car was thereabouts all day in a disrupted race that saw the safety car take to the track on no fewer than 19 occasions (a new event record).
The longest window of green-flag racing was around 1h05m, which occurred early in the race.
A ‘traffic jam’ at the start set the tone for the day in some ways, as much of the sizable field came to a complete halt on Mountain Straight while the drivers sorted themselves out.
The second-placed number 15 Phoenix Racing Audi R8-LMS Ultra scored pole position thanks to driver Laurens Vanthoor with a blistering 2m02.5521s lap on Saturday - earning the Allan Simonsen Pole award and a new lap record for ‘tin-tops’.
Car 15 led many of the 269 laps, and driver Markus Winkelhock’s early morning stint set an impressive pace.
A first-up effort in the 12-Hour for Bentley saw its entries take the lead several times throughout the event, but various dramas kept the works team on its toes all day.
Despite these dramas, the number 10 Bentley found itself in front with around 30 minutes to go, with driver Matt Bell hanging on and heading for the win in the closing stages.
But as the clock ticked down to 12 hours, the event only had enough time remaining to see two laps of racing following the final safety car period and the bunched-up field gave Nissan driver Katsumasa Chiyo a chance to pounce.
The GT-R charged triumphantly past both car 10 and car 15 on Mountain Straight heading into Griffin’s Bend, taking the lead and holding it for the remaining lap-and-a-half.
A final corner barney saw the Bentley shouldered out of the way and into fourth, displaced from the final step on the podium by the number 97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Craft Bamboo Racing.
“It is just unbelievable because I couldn’t imagine that end of the race, with a strong Audi and Bentley and we are still in the amateur class,” Chiyo said.
“The car is very good, it is very strong on the straight. I tried to imagine, it was just amazing, we couldn’t know what would happen in this race, but we just tried our best in the moment and then I had a chance in the final restart. It was just awesome. The car was amazing, and so was the team.”
The tenth hour of the race was dominated by a serious collision at Skyline involving the number 93 MARC Cars Australia V8-powered Mazda3, driven at the time by Ivo Breukers.
After a coming-together with Red Bull daredevil Felix Baumgartner in the number 16 Audi R8, Breukers’ race came to a dramatic end as the Mazda3 spun through the sand-trap and into the tyre wall.
Some entries failed to make the starting line after a series of incidents during practice and qualifying, and the field was reduced to 50 starters for Sunday’s green flag (of which 34 were classified finishers).
The Maranello Motorsport number 88 Ferrari was written-off on Friday in an incident that saw driver Tony D’Alberto hospitalised, and despite a last ditch effort to secure another team’s spare car, Maranello had no chance of defending its title from last year.
This incident robbed the fans of any chance to see Ben Collins - a.k.a. ‘The (previous) Stig’ - race at Mount Panorama, along with returning ex-Formula 1 driver Mika Salo.
Heat once again played a factor on race day, with the air temperature reaching 33 degrees and track temperature bettering 60 degrees. The event saw no rain for the second year in a row.
Thankfully the track problems experienced during the 2014 Bathurst 1000 didn’t re-emerge, as the repaired Griffin’s Bend surface held up under racing conditions despite the heat and the large field.
One ongoing problem for Mount Panorama reared its head again at this year’s race, as a pre-dawn collision with a kangaroo caused a very early exit for the number 42 Hallmark Homes BMW E46 M3 GTR.
As mentioned, 269 laps were covered by the leaders (27 fewer than last year) and the 1000km mark was passed during the eighth hour.
Class A was split into ‘Professional’ and ‘Amateur’, with car 15 (Audi - second outright) claiming the ‘Pro’ win and car 35 (Nissan - outright winners) the ‘Am’ win.
Class B GT3 was exclusively contested by Porsches, and the win was claimed by the number 47 Supabarn 911 GT3 Cup entry (16th outright).
All the Porsches were arguably upstaged by the number 93 MARC Focus V8, which finished 15th outright and won the Invitational Non-Production Class I.
The other Invitation class, for production vehicles, (Class D) was won by the number 23 Bruce Lynton BMW 1 Series M Coupe, while Class C (GT4) was claimed by the number 54 Donut King Lotus Exige Cup R.
Nissan’s victory makes it the fourth carmaker in as many years to claim the 12-Hour trophy, and a welcome turnaround for the team following an early exit from last year’s event.
Photography: Rhys Vandersyde.
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RESULTS - OUTRIGHT
- Car 35(A-Am) - NISMO Athlete Global Team - F.Strauss/K.Chiyo/ W.Reip - Nissan GT-R NISMO GT - 269 laps
- Car 15(A-Pro) - Phoenix Racing - M.Mapelli/L.Vanthoor/M.Winkelhock - Audi R8-LMS Ultra - 269 laps
- Car 97(A-Pro) - Craft Bamboo Racing - D.O'Young/A.MacDowall/S.Mucke - Aston Martin Vantage - 269 laps
- Car 10(A-Pro) - Bentley Team M-Sport - G.Smith/S.Kane/M.Bell - Bentley Continental - 269 laps
- Car 36(A-Pro) - Erebus Motorsport - J.LeBrocq/R.Muscat/D.Canto - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 - laps 269
- Car 49(A-Am) - Vicious Rumour Racing - B.Simonsen/A.Montermini/R.Loberto - Ferrari F458 Italia - 268 laps
- Car 32(A-Pro) - JBS Australia - R.Lago/D.Russell/S.Owen - Lamborghini Gallardo - 268 laps
- Car 33(A-Pro) - Clearwater Racing - W S Mok/T.Vilander/M.Griffin - Ferrari F458 Italia - 268 laps
- Car 16(A-Pro) - Phoenix Racing - F.Baumgartner/C.Haase/S.Ortelli - Audi R8-LMS Ultra - 268 laps
- Car 9(A-Am) - Hallmarc / Network Clothing - M.Cini/M.Eddy/C.Mies - Audi R8-LMS Ultra - 267 laps
- Class A Pro: 2nd outright - Car 15 - Phoenix Racing - M.Mapelli/L.Vanthoor/M.Winkelhock - Audi R8-LMS Ultra - 269 laps
- Class A Am: 1st outright - Car 35 - NISMO Athlete Global Team - F.Strauss/K.Chiyo/ W.Reip - Nissan GT-R NISMO GT - 269 laps
- Class B: 16th outright - Car 47 - Supabarn Supermarkets - J.Koundouris/T.Koundouris/M.Marshall/S.Power - Porsche 911 GT3 Cup - 261 laps
- Class C: 25th outright - Car 54 - Donut King - T.Alford/M.O'Connor/P.Leemhuis - Lotus Exige Cup R - 249 laps
- Class D: 27th outright -Car 23 - Bruce Lynton BMW - B.Lynton/J.Modystach/R.Thomson - BMW M Coupe - 242 laps
- Class I Non-Production: 15th outright - Car 93 - MARC Cars Australia - G.Jacobson/B.Gersekowski/A.Gowans - MARC Focus V8 - 262 laps