Under dark skies, Bentley Team M-Sport won the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. A tense final few hours saw the #7 Bentley threatened by the GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, a puncture and a coming storm, but the British crew beat all of that to take a long-awaited victory at Mount Panorama.
BATHURST 12 HOUR | LIVE STREAM | EVENT PAGE | 2010s GALLERY | INTERVIEW SCOTT DIXON | FRIDAY PRACTICE REPORT | FRIDAY NOTEBOOK | QUALIFYING REPORT | RACE UPDATE 1: MORNING | RACE UPDATE 2: AFTERNOON | HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO | RACE NOTEBOOK | GALLERY
Go-time approached with Bentley sovereign in front as the #7 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 held a 19-second lead over the second-placed #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Having hung out at the lower end of the top ten for much of the race, Dirk Werner stretched his stint to an astonishing 40 laps to put Thomas Preining in the best possible position going into the finale. Inheriting the lead from the early stoppers, Werner made himself a 44-second cushion during his last laps in the car to keep the #912 Absolute Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R in contention for the win should the rain come.
Unlike the Gounon-operated #7 Bentley, Marciello’s #999 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3 kept the older Pirelli tyres under the car allowing the Italian to jump in front of Gounon with a shorter pitstop and take over first place from Werner when the German finally came into the pits.
Fitted with fresh rubber, Jules Gounon began reeling in Raffaele Marciello in the 11th hour, reaching the back of the Mercedes-AMG with just over an hour to go but unable to pass. Getting ahead as soon as Marciello veered off into the pits for his final pitstop, the Bentley Boy immediately suffered a blown right rear tyre at Conrod Straight, forcing the #7 Bentley into the pits earlier than planned and taking on new tyres – but retaining the lead.
Despite having lost a good amount of time through penalties, the #60 59Racing McLaren 720S GT3 team didn’t give up, evident by the car’s fight back to third with an hour to go and with Ben Barnicoat at the wheel continuing to set some of the fastest lap times of the race. Tom Blomqvist took over the McLaren for the final hour to secure the podium but was caught out by a very bold move by Maro Engel – the German not taking any prisoners today – who placed the #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo unexpectedly between the Mac and the wall at Forrest’s Elbow to take third place.
A strong wind preceding the coming storm was blowing dust all over the track on top of the mountain, resulting in a number of punctures. Among those caught out was the #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG: a flat tyre 26 minutes to the end cost the Black Falcon-supported team a likely podium finish and promoted the 59Racing back onto the podium.
Things got even better for the McLaren as Marciello became another victim of tyre failure. Already struggling to keep pace with the unleashed Gounon, all hope for victory was lost when with a handful of minutes to go a blown tyre at The Chase forced the #999 Mercedes-AMG into the pits. While Marciello reclaimed P2 with a daring pass on 59Racing’s Blomqvist at the start of the final lap, a 30-second time penalty was added to the AMG’s time for keeping the engine running during that last pitstop, throwing the team back to sixth at the finish and giving the #888 Triple Eight Race Engineering Mercedes-AMG GT3 the final spot on the podium.
Gounon was unfazed by the events unfolding behind him as he raced to the finish; the suspenseful last hours in Bathurst weren’t stopping the Brits. Only just beating the rain to the chequers, the #7 Bentley crossed the finish line victoriously after 12 hours and 314 laps.
Silver Cup honours went the way of the #59 59Racing McLaren 720S GT3 raced by Fraser Ross, Dominic Storey and Martin Kodrić who finished eighth overall. Kodrić’ high-paced final stint ensured that the #46 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 couldn’t get near the McLaren.
Grove Racing’s Ben Barker brought the #4 Porsche 991.2 GT3R home in tenth place overall, securing the win in the Pro-Am class for Barker and father and son co-drivers Stephen and Brenton Grove.
In the Invitational Class the #91 Scania Racing by Racer Industries MARC II Ford Mustang V8 of Nick Percat, Broc Feeney and Aaron Cameron took an unopposed win as their two competitors hit trouble early on. The Aussie-built machine finished 15th overall.
The two-car GT4 class saw the #13 RHC Jorgensen-Strom BMW M4 GT4 take the win in 22nd position overall. The Daren Jorgensen, Brett Strom and Danny van Dongen-driven M4 finished seven laps ahead of the #19 Nineteen Corp Mercedes-AMG GT4.
0:00 hours to go | 314 laps complete | 17:45 local time
- #7 Bentley Team M-Sport (Maxime Soulet/Jules Gounon/Jordan Pepper) 314 laps
- #60 59Racing McLaren 720S GT3 (Álvaro Parente/Ben Barnicoat/Tom Blomqvist) +41.5239
- #888 Mercedes-AMG Team Triple Eight Race Engineering (Maxi Götz/Jamie Whincup/Shane van Gisbergen) +44.4600
- #911 Absolute Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Matt Campbell/Mathieu Jaminet/Patrick Pilet) +45.9899
- #77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo (Maro Engel/Yelmer Buurman/Luca Stolz) +1:03.0389