The Nissan GT-R, with Katsumasa Chiyo and two GT Academy graduates – Florian Strauss and Wolfgang Reip – took a last gasp victory on the mountain as the Bathurst 12 Hours went down to the final lap.
It would be the first time in 23 years that a Nissan was on the top step of the podium, but by god it wouldn’t come easily with an astounding 20 safety car periods in just 12 hours.
Indeed, it was the last of these safety car periods that allowed ‘Godzilla’ to take a lead that it managed to desperately cling on to in the face of attacks from Bentley, Audi and Aston Martin who all tried to snatch glory at the death.
Eventually coming in second would be the pole sitting Phoenix Racing Audi of Laurens Vanthoor, Markus Winkelhock and Mario Mapelli who finished as runners up after a last corner, last lap move that saw both them and the Craft-Bamboo Aston Martin of Darryl O’Young, Stefan Mucke & Alex MacDowall get past the massively unlucky M-Sport Bentley driven by Matt Bell, Guy Smith and Steven Kane – which would eventually settle for fourth.
As well as being runners up, Phoenix Racing would take GT3 Pro Class success – the Nissan being in GT3 Am – with the top seven overall made up of Am and Pro cars all covered by five seconds after 12 hours of attrition.
A sign of how well balanced the cars could be seen by the fact that the top seven came from seven marques. Nissan, Audi, Aston Martin, & Bentley were chased down by Mercedes, Ferrari and Lamborghini showing a depth of machinery many other championships could only dream of attaining.
It is worth noting that these seven teams managed to get into their final position by avoiding major incident that brought out a record number of safety car periods.
Many of the incidents appear to have been sparked from the shear number of cars traversing the Mountain, with 50 cars from varying classes and speeds competing over a four mile lap it seemed obvious that even a blue flag wouldn’t be enough to allow the faster cars to lap the slower, production based, racers.
Indeed just in the final hour a yellow flag was brought out after one of the MARC Mazda 3s was clipped by one of the A Class Audi R8s which sent the Mazda flying into the wall at the McPhillamy Park corner.
That said, many of the yellow flags were caused by drivers pushing themselves to the limit to try and take victory down under. For example the #63 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes suffered a tyre delimitation on top of the mountain and hit the wall – it managed to get back to the pits but pushing the tyre to it’s limits saw one of their cars fall out the hunt.
With so much action happening in the two GT3 classes, it was easy to forget that there was another four classes racing at the same time. The B class – for Cup cars – saw the older 911 GT3 Cup of Koundouris Racing fight off the hoards of newer 997 Cup cars to take victory in that class.
However, the Koundouris squad did have an easier final 10 minutes than most as the car that was classified second – the Grove Porsche raced by Stephen Grove, Ben Barker and Luke Youlden end up causing the final safety car after they speared off into the sand trap.
Into Class C for GT4 cars and the Donut King Racing team celebrated their Bathurst coronation in the Lotus Exige R with a comprehensive four lap victory over the Saint Gallen Aston Martin Vanatge GT4 who themselves didn’t have any competition from behind as the only other competition, a Ginetta G50 GT4 retired around the halfway mark.
Class D for production cars would see an all BMW podium as the #23 Queensland BMW 1 Series M Coupe complete 242 laps and finish 27th overall – three laps ahead of the next BMW of GWS Personnel in the 335i E90. Almost 40 laps down from the class winner was the 135i E82 of Sherrin Rentals which rounded out the podium ahead of the Daytona Sports Cars machine.
Finally is the invitational Class which featured MARC in their V8 powered Focuses and Mazdas – the Blue oval would take the class win only seven laps down on the race winning Nissan. Although, they didn’t have it all their own way as the Stawell CARTage team gave MARC a bit of hassle in their former Dempsey Racing Grand-Am Mazda RX8GT.
Overall, in a race of 50 cars only 16 failed to finish – remarkable considering the amount of safety cars – with one of the highest profile retirees being the Flying B Bentley which was driven at the time of retirement by David Brabham. He was hit by Mucke in the #97 Aston and was taken to the local hospital for precautionary checks, thankfully he is fine.