Bathurst 12H unfazed by absence of V8 stars

Saturday 29th November, 2014 - 4:00am

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Craig Lowndes led Maranello Motorsport to victory in the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour, but is unable to compete next February

Craig Lowndes led Maranello Motorsport to victory in the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour, but is unable to compete next February

Bathurst 12 Hour director James O’Brien is confident that his event is set for its biggest year yet in 2015, despite the consequences of its clash with V8 Supercars’ pre-season test.

The 12 Hour is on track to receive as many as 60 entries by the December 11 deadline, with 30 outright GT3 cars already confirmed among the field.

The race has grown strongly since embracing the GT3 rules four years ago and shows no sign of slowing, despite the loss of the star V8 Supercars drivers as a result of the date conflict.

Nissan confirmed on Friday that is has given up hope of fielding Rick Kelly in its factory GT-R due to his commitments with V8 Supercars at the test.

While the bulk of the teams are yet to confirm their driver line-ups, the race is next year expected to host an expanded contingent of the world’s leading GT drivers.

“It’s not beneficial, not having any of those (V8 Supercars) divers, but is it going to hurt? I don’t think so,” O’Brien told Speedcafe.com of the situation.

“I don’t think it will affect spectator numbers in any meaningful percentage or any of the entries.

“It’ll affect some driver line-ups, but there are plenty of suitable candidates to replace them.

“By the looks of the number of officials that have signed on, it’s not going to hurt us there either.

“It’s not ideal but I really don’t think it’ll have too much of a negative impact on our event.”

Fans disgruntled by the clash have shown their support for the 12 Hour en masse via social media.

The situation has made the GT event a year-long conversation among media and fans, which O’Brien says has helped boost its public profile.

“It’s certainly nice to be recognised and receive support,” said the understated O’Brien of the fan reaction.

“It was very nice of V8 Supercars to give us the publicity.

“It’s sort of a gift that’s just been giving and giving. We’re very thankful to them for that.”

CLICK HERE for more with James O’Brien in this weekend’s Cafe Chat