Thomas Preining has powered the Manthey EMA Porsche 911 GT3R to the top of the standings as the 2023 Liqui Moley Bathurst 12 Hour closes in on the halfway mark.
After a relatively calm opening stint to the race, incidents have started to disrupt proceedings. Just after the two-hour mark Stephen Grove lost control of the #4 Grove Racing Porsche 911 GT3R going across Skyline. Grove is fine, but the rear-end damage to the Porsche proved too much to repair at the circuit. An hour or so later, a tangle between the #47 Supabarn Audi R8 LMS and the #44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 coming out of Skyline saw the #44 hit the concrete barrier hard, resulting in a second safety car and a car with significant rear-end damage.
Those safety cars shook up the front-end of the order. During the first neutralisation period, Mikael Grenier – who took over the #999 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3 from Maro Engel – pitted the car from the lead, giving Shane van Gisbergen the top spot in the Supercheap Auto Racing #888 AMG.
He held that comfortably for quite a while – fending off the charge of Preining with the torque of the three-pointed star despite the latter trying an audacious move round the outside of SVG at Griffins Bend on the restart. That changed again, during the safety car to recover Aaron Cameron’s damaged #44 car as the Triple 8-run squad elected to do a brake change on the #888.
Running in clear air, Preining opened up a handy gap over van Gisbergen – doing it all again after a quick safety car to recover Fabian Schiller’s Nineteen Corporation Mercedes-AMG GT4 which stopped on the run-off of Turn One.
As the fifth hour completed, and the clock ticked down to just under seven hours of battling to go, alternating strategies meant that the order at the front started to shake up. Preining retains his lead, with two Team WRT BMWs leading the chasing pack behind – Augusto Farfus in the #46 BMW M4 GT3 heading Sheldon van der Linde in the Shell-sponsored #32.
After their early stop in the first safety car period, Engel took over the #999 once again and sits in fourth – ahead of the Sun Energy 1 Mercedes-AMG which has been rotating its drivers pretty regularly with Kenny Habul, Jules Gounon and Luca Stolz all taking turns behind the wheel.
Sixth is Craft-Bamboo Racing, just ahead of the #888 now being driven by Broc Feeney having pitted earlier. The Pro-Am leading #777 The Bend Motorsport Park Audi R8 LMS of Ricardo Feller currently holds seventh, having taken the lead from the #24 Tony Bates Racing entry thanks to an alternative pit strategy.
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