With an hour in the books, the #999 Gruppe M Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel is leading the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in a so far caution-free race. Mount Panorama, however, has already claimed its first retirement: Christopher Haase had to retire the #74 Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 after being punted into the wall at Griffins Bend.
Three years since the last international Bathurst 12 Hour, lights finally went green again for the Australian opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli. Polesitter Maro Engel led fellow Mercedes-AMG pilot Maximilian Götz onto Mount Panorama for twelve hours of racing, as both men edged away from Thomas Preining throughout the opening laps in dusk.
Behind Preining, last year’s winner Luca Stolz in the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, and #46 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 pilot Augusto Farfus were following Preining’s #912 Manthey EMA Porsche 991.2 GT3R. The trio immediately left Silver driver Liam Talbot behind – the Pro-Am class #65 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8 LMS GT3 being just fast enough to stay in front of the Pro drivers behind, but not fast enough to run away, causing a big eleven-car train.
As the sun came up, Dries Vanthoor was the first to get past the leading Pro-Am car, slipstreaming his #32 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 past the Audi going into Griffins Bend and slotting into sixth place both 22 seconds behind WRT teammate Farfus. Audi works drivers Fred Vervisch and Ricardo Feller would soon follow through as well, taking respectively first and second place in the Pro-Am Cup and demoting Talbot to third in class.
At the same moment, metres behind, Christopher Haase and Duvashen Padayachee – leading the Silver Cup aboard the #44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 – made contact, launching Haase’s #74 Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3 into the tyres barriers and severely damaging the car and ending its race.
David Wall, meanwhile, has taken the lead in the Silver class running tenth overall, while the two-car Invitational class sees Fabian Schiller in the #19 Nineteen Corporation Mercedes-AMG GT4 lead ahead of the #111 111Racing / MRA Motorsport MARC I Mazda of Geoff Taunton.
Watch the race live on GT.REPORT/live.
Please consider making a donation so we can keep bringing you our best content from the racetrack.