Ten different GT3 brands accompanied by a 28-car strong GT3 field will assemble for the 2019 Bathurst 12 Hour at Mount Panorama for the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge from January 31 – February 3.
The world-class field features 13 manufacturers across a mix of GT3, GT4, and Invitational Class machinery, with Class A’s 10 brands comprising of Mercedes, BMW, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Ferrari, Nissan, McLaren, Porsche, and Lamborghini.
While the overall grid number, 43, is down on 2018’s 53 cars, the depth and quality of the field is arguably the best-ever seen at the Australian endurance classic, with the depletion largely in the lower classes.
GT REPORT’s Slade Perrins delves into the details and takes you through the entry list.
The heavy hitters
Set to bring their new generation car Down Under for the first time, Bentley Team M-Sport will return for another shot at victory in 2019, campaigning a pair of Bentley Continental GT3s. The British manufacturer has quickly become one of the most popular among fans since debuting in 2015, while their resilience is a force to be reckoned with. Factory drivers Vincent Abril, Jules Gounon, Steven Kane, Jordan Pepper, Andy Soucek, and Maxime Soulet make for a harmonious line-up familiar to fans of the thumping V8.
Australian powerhouse Triple Eight Race Engineering stunned everyone in November when they announced a Mercedes-AMG GT3 entry that will be driven by all three of the team’s Supercars stars. Seven-time Supercars champion and previous winner of the Bathurst 12 Hour Jamie Whincup will share with the legendary Craig Lowndes and the ever-impressive, no matter what he drives, Shane van Gisbergen.
Lowndes arrives off the back of a fairytale Bathurst 1000 win in October after announcing his retirement from full-time Supercars racing at season end. Scott Taylor Motorsport will run the car with Triple Eight, following on from the latter’s partnership with Maranello Motorsport in 2017 which saw Lowndes, Whincup, and Toni Vilander capture the win.
Aston Martin will have a presence once again with Swiss squad R-Motorsport fielding a pair of V12 Vantages. The team were strong contenders at this year’s Spa 24 Hours and throughout the 2018 Blancpain GT Endurance Series, raising eyebrows in May when they dominated at Silverstone.
Ferrari will be back to conquer the Mountain in 2019 in the form of two heavy hitters for the prancing horse. HubAuto Corsa will bring the all-Australian trio of Tim Slade, Nick Foster and Nick Percat; Slade and Foster being regulars at the team in Asia. They will be joined by a second 488 GT3 from Spirit of Race/AF Corse.
BMW has been a manufacturer which has shown extraordinary potential in the last two years only for its leading contenders to come to grief in various ways. The headlines last year were fixated on BMW Team Schnitzer and Chaz Mostert who won the pole before crashing out in the second half of the race. Well, the good news is Schnitzer are returning this February, with Mostert expected to partner alongside Augusto Farfus and Martin Tomczyk. Also part of the returning BMW contingent is recent Spa 24 Hours winners Walkenhorst Motorsport which will field an M6 GT3 with GT REPORT’s own Christian Krognes as part of the driving line-up. The team debuted at Bathurst in 2017 but a heavy crash in practice ruled them out for the remainder of the weekend. Redemption will be on the cards this time around.
Porsche Motorsport has entered a pair of 911 GT3-Rs which will be run by EBM, believed to be Earl Bamber Motorsport. Matt Campbell, Dirk Werner, and Dennis Olsen will steer one car, while the other will be piloted by Sven Müller, Mathieu Jaminet and Porsche superstar Romain Dumas.
Breaking late Thursday night European time was the confirmation of another brand in the form of Nissan, with top-flight Asian outfit KCMG campaigning two GT-Rs on debut at the event. Included in the driving roster is former Audi LMP1 man Oliver Jarvis and Katsumasa Chiyo; the gun Japanese driver who put on a phenomenal performance in the closing stages of the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour to deliver victory for Nissan and ‘Godzilla’.
As if what we’ve already described wasn’t enough, Audi will have five R8 LMS GT3s on the grid as the Four Rings looks to defend its crown on Australian soil. While last year’s winning team, WRT, will not be back in 2019, there is no doubt the German manufacturer will be among the big contenders, with factory entries from Audi Sport Team Valvoline as well as strong line-ups expected from locals Melbourne Performance Centre.
Even more heavy hitters
Mercedes-AMG is the most numerous marque in the GT3 contingent with six AMG GT3s including the previously mentioned Triple Eight example.
Black Falcon Racing will partner Craft-Bamboo Racing and Nineteen Corp with a pair of AMG GT3s between the squads. Also part of the Mercedes contingent are GruppeM Racing, SunEnergy1 Racing, and The Bend Motorsport Park team.
The sole McLaren 650S GT3 comes in the form of local outfit Objective Racing, while the grid will be populated by two Lamborghini Huracáns from Trofeo Motorsport and Wall Racing respectively.
Porsche customer teams Black Swan Racing and Competition Motorsports will both field cars in the Pro-Am class.
Class battles set to be fierce
Class B for Porsche Cup cars will have a four-way fight, headlined by last year’s winners Grove Racing; a team which now has three class victories under its belt.
Meanwhile, Class C for GT4 cars will pit a trio of Ginetta Australia G55 entries up against a three-car effort from KTM as well as BMW M4 GT4 from American team RHC Jorgensen/Strom by Marc Cars Australia.
Speaking of MARC Cars, the Australian team locks out the Invitational Class with four entries, two of the Generation II cars and two of the original versions of their Aussie-designed and developed enduro racer.
Event organizers more than satisfied by 2019 field
“We’re thrilled with the quality of the field and the depth of brands, teams, and drivers to be involved,” said Kurt Sakzewski, Bathurst 12 Hour Event Director.
“We will welcome back several familiar names but also several new teams who will be making their Bathurst debut. It is truly a world-class grid and the competition is going to be brilliant between some of the best brands and teams in not just GT3 racing, but in motorsport full stop.
“The growth of the Intercontinental GT Challenge and the enduring appeal of Mount Panorama is reflected in the sizable manufacturer presence, but the addition of so many strong privately entered teams shows that anyone can have a shot at winning this race.
“The size of the grid is just about spot-on for this race and we’re very comfortable with that.
“The competition will be strong in each class but there will be a bit more space between cars which will hopefully make for a cleaner race, both for those in it and those watching trackside or on TV.”
So, there you have it. The grid for the 2019 Bathurst 12 Hour. A final entry list including drivers will be released in the new year. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on the grid so far and if your favorite team appears on the entry list.