The smoke has now settled on an intense 2022 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race, with both of this year’s international entries finishing at the top of the standings. For Craft-Bamboo Racing the race eventuated in a relentless chase on the winning SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, with the team being just under 10 seconds short at the line. But the race also represented their best-ever finish of second after four previous attempts (2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020).
BATHURST 12 HOUR | INFO PAGE | LIVESTREAM | FRIDAY REPORT | FRIDAY GALLERY | QUALIFYING REPORT | SATURDAY GALLERY | MID-RACE REPORT | FINISH REPORT | GALLERY | INTERVIEW DAVID CRAMPTON | INTERVIEW DARRYL O’YOUNG
Craft-Bamboo first entered the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour back in 2015 as one of the Asian region’s leading and popular GT sportscar racing teams. At the time, the Hong Kong-flagged team were the claws of Aston Martin’s first major attempt on the race having been a high level regional partner and distributor of AMR Prodrive’s GT3 products. With German ace Stefan Mücke, Brit Alex MacDowall and Hong Kong-licenced team director/driver Darryl O’Young at the wheel, the #97 Craft-Bamboo Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 stayed on the lead lap in until the final frantic few minutes before Mücke charged from fifth at the start of the last lap and finishing an incredible third – an amazing debut result for the team and one that cemented them firmly as a name on the international GT scene.
2015 wasn’t O’Young’s first foray into Bathurst endurance competition and it certainly wasn’t his best result, with two back-to-back outright wins in Phoenix Racing run Audi R8 GT3s in 2011 and 2012 when GT3 cars were first introduced to the event. Indeed, the Canadian born driver made a solid reputation racing around the world in all manner of tin tops and has many prestigious races in his resume. He has made multiple appearances at the Le Mans and Daytona 24 Hours, as well as raced in the FIA GT1 World Championship.
Forming Craft-Bamboo Racing in 2014 with fellow HK-based racer Frank Yu undoubtedly helped develop GT racing in South East Asia; notably due to its role as a leading team that shared a strong partnership with a major manufacturer which was almost unheard of at the time in Asian racing. O’Young and the team were highly competitive in the the ever-growing GT Asia series, winning the championship near its peak in 2015. It was a strong beginning for a team that has since adapted well to the ever-changing landscape of GT3 racing.
When a highly evolved GT3 technical regulation was introduced in 2016, Craft-Bamboo jumped over to partner Porsche – as an Official Technical Partner – who had just released a latest-spec 911 GT3R. This resulted in an entry into the 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour race with a single factory-supported Pro class entry that recorded a top 5 finish.
2018 brought a move to Mercedes-AMG as a Technical Partner that has since opened many doors, with Craft-Bamboo now representing Mercedes in top-flight GT3 races across the world and competing at the sharp end of field. Bathurst has been a key part of the partnership as Craft-Bamboo spearheads the automaker’s South East Asia and Oceania regional racing activities and has entered at least one Pro class car on Mount Panorama since 2019. Despite the streak of entries, O’Young himself has not raced on the mountain since 2015 – but doesn’t let that bother him.
“I love this track a lot and it got a very good linkage in terms of similarities to Macau,” O’Young said.
“We enjoy coming back every year and because we’ve raced here so many years we’ve built a good relationship with the fans and the race organisation.
“It’s not a home race for us but it feels very close to it! We’ve got a lot of support.”
This was reflected by the fact that Craft-Bamboo was practically the only international entry into the out-of-regular-scheduled 2022 edition of the Bathurst 12 Hour, aside from a locally supported and engineered entry that hailed from US-based Sunenergy1, also running a Mercedes-AMG. While their previous years’ entries had been filled with factory talent, Craft-Bamboo adapted to this year’s one-off improvised Pro-Am regulation and pulled in Asian-based Kevin Tse as it amateur driver, having raced extensively with them in the Asian Le Mans Series. Tse was partnered with Mercedes factory aces Maro Engel and Daniel Juncadella.
An unusual but effective morning pit strategy to perform as many of the twelve compulsory pit stops after each safety car period led to Craft-Bamboo gaining the lead at the race’s halfway point. Tse had managed to tick off most of his required driving time having done an excellent job of keeping the car off the walls in very difficult morning weather conditions. But by the afternoon, a clean run by the SunEnergy1 team – also supported by Mercedes-AMG factory pilots – had put that car in the lead with 2020 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Jules Gounon pitted against a hard charging Engel. However, anything the highly experienced Engel could do to claw back ground, Gounon had an answer for all the way to the chequered flag. Craft-Bamboo were left to come home second – a new best result for the team.
The team will continue to feature for Mercedes-AMG as the 2022 Intercontinental GT Challenge rages on, with Bathurst offering a great chance to shake off some rust after a COVID-19-enforced long break. As things return to normal, the question is will Craft Bamboo return to Mount Panorama in 2023?
“Our plan is to be here again, hopefully with two cars,” O’Young said.
A doubling of Pro efforts would be a first for the team who has repeatedly demonstrated how effective they can be on the mountain with a single top-class entry – even across three separate GT3 packages. Having driven three markedly different GT3 cars over the last eight years, O’Young rates the Mercedes-AMG GT3 as an exceptional race car having notably winning the 2021 Macau GT Cup with it.
“It’s phenomenal! The aerodynamics, even the braking performance and power… everything is better. Even compared to a GT2, the GT3 is very balanced and very friendly for amateur drivers. It’s a very, very good car and both the Pros and Ams can enjoy the car and the race here today was proof of that concept.”
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