Porsche lines up for Bathurst
Getting ready for the 12-hour endurance classic.
For many drivers the most exciting sportscar race of the year unfolds again this weekend in the Tablelands of New South Wales. The infamous Bathurst 12 Hour blends classic endurance with dramatic elevation changes to create a unique challenge in sportscar racing that has become a firm favourite in recent years for teams and fans around the world.
Since 2016, the Bathurst 12 Hour has formed part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, and having taken both manufacturers’ and drivers’ crowns in the 2019 series, this traditional season opener sees Porsche launching its title defence in what is now widely regarded as the most important GT3 championship in the world.
Following its maiden win on the 6.2 km Mount Panorama circuit last year, Porsche also returns as defending Bathurst champion. This time around, some five new 911 GT3 Rs will line up for the start, facing stiff opposition from no fewer than 10 other manufacturers.
The 2020 Porsche contingent comprises four customer teams, including last year’s winners, EBM, the newly formed team owned by Porsche works driver Earl Bamber. Sharing the driving duties in the No. 1 911 GT3R are the two reigning champions of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber himself, alongside Australian motorsport legend Craig Lowndes.
In the No. 12 vehicle fielded by NED Racing Team are Porsche works driver Romain Dumas, Porsche Junior Jaxon Evans and Australian David Calvert-Jones. The hugely popular Grove Racing team tackles the event with Australian owner Stephen Grove, his son Brenton Grove and British ‘World Endurance Championship’ regular Ben Barker.
The Absolute Racing team, meanwhile, is campaigning two cars, and with it an impressive line-up of Porsche factory talent. Local favourite Matt Campbell shares driving duties in the No. 911 car with the Frenchmen pairing of Mathieu Jaminet and Patrick Pilet, while veteran German driver Dirk Werner teams up in the No. 912 car with Porsche Young Professionals Thomas Preining and Matteo Cairoli.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to take part in this event as a team,” said Bamber earlier this week. “Our victory last year was unbelievable, of course. To return as last year’s winners for Porsche is something special. As a driver, as always, it’ll be great to work alongside Laurens. We had a lot of success in America last year. We’re both really excited to have a legendary guy like Craig join us in the team. He’s one of the most successful Bathurst drivers on the grid.”
This year marks the 18th running of the gruelling 12-hour race, first contested here in 1991. Some 200 kilometres west of Sydney, the circuit is made up of closed public roads with 23 corners and an incredible elevation change of 174 metres in a single lap. The layout poses a serious challenge to drivers and engineers alike, the tight corner combinations to the south demanding utmost concentration and putting massive strain on tyres and brakes. The fastest passages are the two long sections, the 1.9 km Conrod Straight and the 1.1 km Mountain Straight.
There are expected to be around 40 vehicles forming on the grid this year, some 33 of which are GT3 cars – a Bathurst 12-Hour record. The latest Porsche 911 GT3 R made its first appearance in the Intercontinental GT Challenge at Laguna Seca last year, but this coming weekend will be the naturally aspirated 368 kW (500 hp) racer’s debut at the Mount Panorama Circuit, with some big shoes to fill following its predecessor’s unprecedented success here last year.
“This year is the first time we race the new Porsche 911 GT3 R at Bathurst,” said Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R, “but we’ll be calling on all the experiences we gained during the 2019 season. Combined with our teams, this gives us a very strong overall package. The track is one of the fastest on the racing calendar with an average speed exceeding 180 km/h. On the long straight, it’s even possible to reach a top speed of more than 270 km/h. Drivers also have to wend their way through rock walls and barriers – always at the limit. This means that our drivers must perform consistently at their peak and with total concentration over the entire race distance.”
The long weekend begins with the free practice this coming Friday, followed by a single qualifying session on Saturday where drivers will battle for those all-important starting positions. The race itself will start before dawn on Sunday 2 February, affording drivers the spectacular challenge of driving Mount Panorama as the sun rises. The slated time for the flag to drop is 05:45 local time, or19:45 CET, and the entire race can be watched live on www.bathurst12hour.com.au/.