Former Australian GT4 championship winning team M Motorsport has debuted SRO Motorsport’s latest class, GT2, at the 2022 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour by racing a newly acquired KTM X-Bow GT2 in the Invitational Class with long-time partner Vantage Racing.
M Motorsport is vastly experienced with bringing Reiter Engineering products to Australian racing grids, having raced both KTM X-Bow GT4 and Reiter Lamborghini GT3 cars over the years. For Vantage Racing team owner David Crampton it was his third campaign in the Bathurst 12 Hour, having previously raced the X-Bow GT4 in 2018 and 2019 as well as having vast experience with that model car in the Australian GT Championship over the recent years. For Crampton, the move to the GT2 platform provided him with a confident package after only one 4-hour race (where the car won its class and got third outright) and three days testing at Phillip Island before shipping out to ‘The Mountain’.
“This is a totally different car,” said Crampton.
“It’s wider, longer and 200hp more. I feel comfortable in this car.”
Per the SRO intent, class GT2 was intended to fill the performance gap between GT4 and GT3 – despite the odd numbering convention – as class of cars less reliant on aerodynamics and providing fast laps times via more horsepower. The better top speeds of the cars appeal to the sport’s backbone of gentleman drivers, however rarely has GT2 machinery been pitted head-to-head with the top class GT3 cars in blue riband races and that’s what made the Vantage Racing entry a very ambitious one.
For Bathurst, the KTM X-Bow GT2 qualified twelfth outright in the 20-car field with a fastest lap time of 2m07.7951s – fastest of all non-GT3 cars. By comparison, the GT4 KTM was the best qualifier of the entire 2019 GT4 field with a 2m17.0721s lap set against BMW and Ginetta machines. The nearly 10 second per lap difference afforded Crampton the time to focus on driving as fast as possible, with less time spent looking over his shoulder for fast closing GT3 cars as per previous years.
“Once you get on top of the power it’s a much better package, as it was quite dangerous in a GT4 with [GT3] closing speeds of 30-40km/h.
“I’ve hit 281km/h down Conrod Straight,” Crampton added. “Now [the GT3] cars are slowing us up!”
Indeed the top speeds the KTM reached on Conrod Straight became something watched closely by the event technical team over the course of the weekend, with a little ‘fine tuning’ made before the race proper. Not that it stopped Crampton from getting more and more settled to his new machine: “I did four practice sessions and got faster with each one.”
The suitability of the GT2 to Mount Panorama was made apparent during the early stages of the race as V8 Supercar driver Dale Wood used his experience at Bathurst to great effect under the darkness and fog of the early morning. Wood had placed the car comfortably ahead of several GT3 cars in the first hour and was mixing it in the mid-pack on bona fide pace. The KTM X-Bow GT2 was clearly the top car of its class having better pace than rival Invitational Class entrants – and race stalwarts – MARC GT cars in qualifying and the race.
But it was just as the mist was lifting that the extremely tricky conditions caught out the KTM on the fast flowing sections at the top of the circuit. Wood clipped the wall and broke a suspension component. Fortunately, the car remained largely intact but was out of the race. Regardless, Crampton was full of praise for the team’s weekend and was smiling even as the team packed up for the weekend.
“The car and the team did a solid job all weekend and the car is super reliable – it has not missed a beat,” he said.
“It’s just unlucky in the conditions and… Yeah…”
The pioneering spirit of Vantage Racing may lead to the potential increase GT2 machinery, especially after the speed of the package has been demonstrated. The team moves positively into the future having gelled and remained consistent over the years, and has pledged the crew will be back in nine-months-time for the 2023 Liqui -Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
“Yes we’ll be back 100 percent,” Crampton said.
“Dale Wood was a new addition but he was a perfect choice. Great guy and brought a lot to the team, and brought a lot to me personally with coaching.”
With a little more experience and a fast package underneath, Vantage Racing are looking a strong chance to take their new rocket ship to the Bathurst podium.
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