For those that follow motorsport in Australia, Bathurst’s Mount Panorama is holy territory. The 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race over the weekend reminded us why it is such an eventful place.
Audi R8 pics by Bruce Moxon
With racing being held here for nigh on fifty years, Mount Panorama has seen the rebirth of the 12 Hour, complete with everything that makes this other great race what it is.
Saturday’s qualifying saw the mountain expose its teeth, with the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560 driven by Ted Huglin impacting the wall at Hell’s Corner, ripping off the front right wheel and undertray while moving the engine and firewall enough to put him out for the weekend.
Soon after, at the top of the mountain, the HSV GTS being piloted by James Atkinson suffered the same fate, although, in this case, it was repairable.
With a CAMS sanctioned rule causing some confusion for those not driving, the quickest lap time allowed for qualifying was 2:08. The intention was to allow the slower vehicles a window of 130 per cent of the quickest vehicles times in order to minimise the possibility of not taking part. Any time below 2:08 was disallowed during qualifying yet the rule was relaxed for the race.
The German Audi R8 LMS team of Christopher Mies, Darryl O’Young and Christer Joens took pole, ahead of the Ferrari 458 team of Allan Simonsen and Dominik Farnbacher. Race start was at, as one wag puts it, “stupid o’clock”, otherwise known as 6.15am. It was safety-car-free for nearly two hours, until, in quick succession, the diesel SEAT from Red Camel Jordans blew a turbo and parked trackside on Conrod Straight.
Shortly afterwards it was the R8 from United Autosports that impacted the wall, as light rain met slick tyres. The Ric Shaw backed Mazda RX-7 then hit the wall at Skyline and just as the track went green, the big Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of the Black Falcon team hit the wall climbing towards Skyline after spinning. Another retirement with just three hours completed. Rain struck at the four-hour mark, with a flurry of teams coming in to change to badly needed wets.
Just before the five-hour mark ticked over the other Lamborghini from the JPS team impacted the wall at Hell’s Corner, with the driver, Wayne Park, candidly admitting “I f##ked up”. A bare ten minutes later the number 17 Ferrari, after suffering a petrol issue and computer failure earlier in the morning, had a fire extinguisher go off in the engine bay at the bottom of Mountain Straight. The car’s ECU had failed and the driver, Dominik Farnbacher, turned the ignition on and off, with a surge firing the extinguisher.
Drama for the Audi cars with Mark Eddy thinking he was clear to leave his pit spot, ripping the fuel overflow pipe from the filler unit. The other Audi R8 came in whilst the team was trying to clean up resulting in a five minute penalty for Eddy, with Eddy later impacting the wall at Skyline. Race over for the Aussie Audi R8.
Hidden heroes arose behind the scenes with a team member donating a serpentine belt for the HSV of Boss Plaster whilst Sarah Harley, in the Lotus Exige, driving in a car she barely knew, ran an exemplary race in torrential rain. The Donut King Nissan GT-R ran faultlessly with 2011 Commodore Cup champion, Adam Beechey, delighted with his time behind the wheel.
At the end of Twelve Hours, it was “The Kangaroo Car”, the black Audi R8 LMS, with Darryl O’Young at the wheel coming in first. The silver chromed Erebus Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 was just over a minute shy in second, while the Ferrari from Clearwater Racing, with Craig Baird commenting how the car didn’t handle the rain well, came through for third. A surprise package was found in the HSV Astra from Racer Industries, winning its class and finishing seventh overall.
With seven safety car interventions, the race covered 270 laps and there’s now talk the event will be moved to early February, to allow more Australian based GT entries.