I love Bathurst… Whether its club car racing, GTs, open wheelers, Australia’s Supercar Series, or the annual 12hr event, the layout and technical aspects of the circuit always makes for an entertaining race. This place holds the type of mystique and character of famous tracks such as Spa and the Nurburgring. The 6.2km (4mi) track has a difference in elevation of 174m (575ft) to give an indication of the landscape the track is set out on.
I’m not alone in my admiration. The Bathurst 1000 (held every October since 1963) continues to be one of Australia’s best-attended race meets. Whilst the 12hr race in its current format is relatively new (2007), crowds continue to grow as fans flock to witness the varied cars, manufactures, and drivers fight it out for victory.
Drivers entered for this year’s event included International super-stars Toni Villander, Bend Schneider, Timo Glock, Patrick Long and Darren Turner, as well as Australian and New Zealand drivers Shane Van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Michael Caruso, and Tim Slade amongst others.
The 2017 race saw new teams and manufacturers arrive to take on the 2016 winners Tekno Motorsport who were victorious in their Mclaren 650 GT3. Unfortunately, the Tekno team was forced to withdraw their entry after a heavy crash in practice on Saturday. Outright pole for the 2017 race was taken out by the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT 3, followed up by the pairing of BMW M6 GT3 from MARC Cars Australia in second, and the BMW SRM entry in third.
The 12hr race starts in the darkness of early morning – The cars roll out of pit lane to meet the green flag at 5:45 am. A gruelling day lay ahead for the teams, drivers and cars. Throughout the day, a number of the favoured teams were struck with mechanical failures and on-track accidents. This included the two Nissan Nismos, all three BMW M6 coupes, the factory Audis, the factory #911 Porsche and the #8 Bentley GT3. All-in-all the day ran fairly typically of such an endurance event with multiple safety cars periodically detracting from what was panning out to be a phenomenal finish.
As the race approached the final 30 minutes, the drama really stacked on. The second placed Scott Taylor Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT (driven by 2016 winner Shane Van Gisbergen) made contact with lapped traffic. Race stewards ruled that the Mercedes serve a drive-through penalty, essentially handing the race win to the Maranello Ferrari, at this stage driven by Jamie Whincup. What happened next however no-one could predict, as Van Gisbergen made a mistake, clipping the curbing and spearing the car into the wall. Matters escalated further when his own teammate, Maro Engel, was interviewed and in an un-sportsman like manner apportioned blame and criticised Van Gisbergen publicly for the error.
After all the late race drama, the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT 3 took victory after leading 136 of the 290 laps, seeing Whincup, Villander, and Lowndes atop of the podium. Second place went to the Porsche team of Calvert, Jones, Long, Lieb, and Campbell with third place taken out by the Bentley GT3 driven by Kane, Smith, and Jarvis.