Just 1.276 seconds denied the #1 Nissan NISMO Athlete Global Team from securing their second consecutive triumph in the 2016 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
The team of Rick Kelly, Katsumasa Chiyo and Florian Strauss were edged out by the #59 Tekno Autosports McLaren at the end of the 12-hour endurance race, having been in contention throughout the event.
Chiyo made a great attempt at claiming victory from the McLaren in the closing stages, closing down Shane van Gisbergen’s fifteen-second lead to under two seconds when the chequered flag fell.
“We were not the quickest car yesterday but we had a very strong race today,” said Chiyo. “The team was working very well and the car was just fantastic. It is such a great team and my co-drivers were great. We were doing really well until the last few minutes, but the McLaren was so fast.
“I tried to catch up but I had slower traffic to avoid; it was pretty scary at times. We really wanted to win again this year and come back with it, but winning at Bathurst is not easy. The race was very much like a sprint this year, without many safety cars and not much traffic, which made it quite tough.
“I want to say thank you to everyone in the team and to my team mates; and thank you for such a great car; I want to come back again next year.”
Team-mate Kelly was thankful for the support of his team-mates as he attempted to come to terms with GT racing at the circuit, but admitted his surprise at just how foreign teams drivers came and adapted to the track so quickly.
“It was an exciting day for us and we led a lot of laps which was good fun. We had a lot of straight line speed which, for me, was quite exciting,” said Kelly. “We could check people up the hill and then pull away.
“It was really good. First thing, congratulations to the Tekno guys; they had an impressive car all weekend so we had that to try and catch and unfortunately today we just couldn’t match the pace that those guys had.
“I came into the weekend with my eyes wide open; just trying to learn as much as I could and support these guys who won it last year in such nice style. We weren’t able to do it today but, nevertheless, I learnt a lot, especially from this fella (Chiyo); he can drive that car – I can give you the tip. I have been looking at his data all weekend and learned a lot from him, and Florian as well, so for me it was a great opportunity.
“You can see how strong a lot of the great overseas teams and drivers are – they come here, get the track nailed pretty quickly, and the same with the cars; and a few years ago in our V8 Supercar this wasn’t really the case.
“So I think it really opens our eyes to overseas drivers for the 1000km race here in October because the quality of international drivers is outstanding. Now they have experience at our home track they could certainly be assets for us in the future.”
Third driver Strauss, who was part of the race-winning squad of 2015 at the track with Chiyo and Wolfgang Reip, was happy to finish second but wants to return in 2017 for another crack at victory.
“I think (the day) was just incredible,” said Strauss. “Everyone at the team was a little bit disappointed yesterday but we were pretty sure our race pace should be much more in front than our qualifying lap showed.
But of course it is always difficult to win here; a lot of green running this year.
“It was impossible to catch the fast guy (van Gisbergen) next to me (at this press conference), but Chiyo tried every single thing. I am sure next year we will have another attempt and try to win again.”