With the 2023 Rolex Daytona 24 Hours in the books and many racers in transit – it’s time to look ahead to the 2023 Bathurst 12 Hour – the famous once-round-the-clock GT enduro returning to the Pro format for the first time since 2020.
➤ The 2023 event sees a return to the Pro/Pro-Am/Am format for the first time since 2020, when Bentley won its last major race as a factory entity. COVID-19 would sweep through the world a month later, causing much instability and cancelling the 2021 edition of the race. A Pro-Am, predominantly domestic field formed the 2022 event with only two international teams participating in a race held out-of-season in May.
➤ A 26-car field is confirmed for the 2023 event, with 21 of those being GT3 cars. In the GT3 field, 8 cars are in the Pro class, 7 in the Pro-Am and 6 in the Sliver (Am) Class. The event marks the track debut of the BMW M4 GT3, of which 2 are entered by 2018 event winners Team WRT.
➤ Five cars line up in the invitational class, headlined by the MARC GT cars versus KTM X-Bow GT2 battle from last year. It will also mark the debut of the SIN R1 to ‘The Mountain’ – but not in the GT4 kit. The R1 is run by long-time race entrants Daytona Sportscars (formerly Viper and Daytona Coupe entries), the car features a GM LS7 7.0L V8 and should be right in the mix. Rounding out the grid is a Mercedes-AMG GT4.
➤ The weather for Bathurst this weekend is unseasonally cool, with a slight chance of rain. While recent past events have been famous for 40 degrees Celsius heat, the current forecast is for low-20s days. In the event of rain, the teams that competed in the 2022 event will have access to valuable wet-weather set-up data after copping a soaking all weekend.
➤ The Pro field is an all-German affair in term of marques, with all four major brands taking a Pro car to the race.
➤ Audi fields just the one Pro car – the #74 R8 LMS Evo 22 for factory guns Christopher Haase, Patrick Niederhauser and Mattia Drudi.
➤ BMW fields two Pro M4 GT3 with Team WRT, the #32 of Sheldon Van Der Linde, Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts alongside the much touted #46 line up of Augusto Farfus , BMW returnee Maxime Martin and the legendary former MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi.
➤ Mercedes-AMG enjoys numerical dominance in the Pro class highlighted with 2022 winners Sun Energy 1 returning in the #75 AMG GT3 with local boy Kenny Habul along factory guns Jules Gounon and Luca Stolz – a mostly unchanged line up from last year. Also entered is the second-placed car from 2022 – Craft Bamboo returning as promised in the #77 car with Daniel Juncadella and Nick Catsburg, with the third driver now confirmed as Philip Ellis after original driver Lucas Auer suffered multiple fractures in a heavy crash at Daytona. Also spearheading the entry for Mercedes are strong local team Triple Eight with a #888 car for local V8 superstars Shane van Gisbergen and Broc Feeney alongside AMG factory ace Maximilian Götz, and lastly the #999 GruppeM car of the ultra strong combination of Maro Engel, Mikael Grenier and Raffaele Marciello is one of the red-hot favourites heading into the event.
➤ Porsche enters just one 911 GT3.R (991.2 spec) Pro car to the event in one of its last events after being updated with an all-new 2023 model. The car is filled with the proven and mercurial factory talents of former race winner Matt Campbell partnered with his equally talented global race partner Mathieu Jaminet and Thomas Preining in the #912 Grello car of Manthey Racing in partnership with Australian team EMA racing.
➤ In the Pro-Am class, a number of cars are in contention for the outright win if the strategy, condition and a little luck plays out. All teams are Australian based and most featured regularly in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia series.
➤ There are three Pro-Am Mercedes-AMG (#99 Triple Eight, #222 Scott Taylor Motorsports and #24 Makita Volante Rosso) which feature Australian Supercars talents Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes and David Reynolds, former Aston Martin factory ace Ritchie Stanaway and GTWC Europe regular Jordan Love.
➤ Audi’s partnership with the Melbourne Performance Centre yields yet another strong Audi Pro-Am entry with the #777 The Bend car of Christopher Mies, Ricardo Feller and Yasser Shahin being one of the races dark-horses, along side the #55 car of local Brad Schumacher, James Golding and Audi pro Fred Vervisch. The #9 car sees seemingly eternal combination of the Hallmarc Audi R8 with Lee Holdsworth, Dean Fiore and Marc Cini.
➤ Long-time race stalwarts Grove Racing return in their #4 Pro-Am Porsche with significantly boosted international experience with owners Stephen Grove and Brenton Grove pairing with the quick Anton De Pasquale of Supercar Australia fame.
➤ The Silver class features a number of familiar entries joined by a little new blood. Event fans will know well the #6 Wall Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo in its evocative red throwback livery, as well as other returnees Valmont (#44 Mercedes-AMG GT3), Supabarn Racing (#47 Audi). They are joined by GTWC Australia regulars Harrolds Volante in the #101 Mercedes-AMG and a group of long established kiwis from New Zealand Endurance Championship in the #10 Myland Audi. Lastly, in an entry that raised a few eyebrows with its depth, the #65 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi is driven by experienced Ams Fraser Ross and Liam Talbot alongside Mount Panorama superstar Chaz Mostert, who took pole for the race in 2018 and 2022.
➤ For the First time since 2011, a Formula One car will return to the Mountain with Red Bull bringing a 2011 Vintage RB7 (as driven by Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber) with the V8 powered monster to be driven by young New Zealand talent Liam Lawson. It will run a demonstration on the Saturday.
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