Paddock notebook: Bathurst 12 Hour
The Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 claimed the pole and led 136 of the 290 laps on its way to victory in a wild Bathurst 12 Hour.
Behind it there were incidents aplenty in the dawn-to-dusk in marathon.
Below is a collection of snippets from Speedcafe.com’s notebook on the hectic blast around Mount Panorama.
Safety Car working overtime: There were 16 caution periods called for a total of 43 laps. The longest period of green running went for a little under 2 hours and 40 minutes in between Safety Cars #15 and #16. It fell short of the record of 20 in 2015.
This arrived after the team’s preparations were hampered by a troublesome mechanical issue which reared its head in two tests.
Able to break away from the pack at various stages of the marathon, the Toni Vilander, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup-driven machine had more than a lap to spare at the finish courtesy of Shane van Gisbergen’s late crash in the factory-supported STM Mercedes AMG GT.
Crucially it was the second major win for the 488 GT3 model after it landed the Sebring 12 hour in its first race last year. Also coming from pole, the Scuderia Corsa-run Ferrari triumphed for Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen and Jeff Segal.
Flying Finn: Renowned on the world stage Toni Vilander showed his class by producing an extraordinary performance to put Maranello Motorsport in the box seat to win the race.
It also proved to be an emotional weekend for the 36-year-old as he guided the team to pole position in qualifying earning the coveted Allan Simonsen Trophy named after his late friend.
He backed up the qualifying pace during the race opening up a 20 plus second lead on three occasions to break the back of the opposition. His stunning display included a stint on used rubber where he was comfortably the fastest.
The maiden Bathurst 12 Hour victory meant al lot to him, saying afterwards, “It is nice to have a Bathurst 12 Hour win because Mika Salo used to tease me that he was only Finn who had won this race.”
Whincup proves his class: Heading into his maiden Bathurst 12 Hour six-times Supercars champion Jamie Whincup admitted he was a ‘fish out of water’ as he prepared to tackle the world’s elite GT3 drivers.
Whincup had clocked just five laps in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 before Friday practice at Mount Panorama.
However, he quickly proved any doubters of his talent wrong by setting a searing pace in unfamiliar machinery.
Such was his swift transition to GT3 racing, the team selected Whincup to complete the crucial final stint of the race, breaking his recent Bathurst hoodoo.
Nissan’s tale of woes: #24 Nismo GT3 rebuilt in a Friday all-nighter. Todd Kelly, Jann Mardenborough and Florian Strauss were players in the race before a gear selection problem garaged the car with five hours left.
While its chances were snuffed, it returned to the track to post some blistering times late, a 2:03.30, the third fastest of the race eventually finishing eighth, three laps down.
It wasn’t much chop either for the #23 shared by Alex Buncombe, Katsumasa Chiyo and Michael Caruso.
A broken floor, and shot transmission developed in the opening hour.
Spending an agonisingly long time in the pits, the #23 crossed the line 16 laps down on the winner.
Bentley brawn: The M-Sport-run squad claimed a second successive third position with 2016 placegetters Guy Smith and Steven Kane joined by former Audi LMP1 driver Oliver Jarvis.
The brand-new Continental GT3 had not even had a shakedown before arriving at Bathurst. It subsequently qualified 24th and had moved into the top 10 after the opening two hours.
Bentley’s #8 machine of Andy Soucek, Vince Abril and Maxime Soulet came from the back of the pack after an early pit stop to fight back and finish 12th. Bentley has indicated its intention to return for a fourth tilt next year.
Mercedes’ challenge ends in disaster: Mercedes provided the only serious contender to challenge Maranello Motorsport in the second half of the race, courtesy of the factory supported Scott Taylor Motorsport, which started 17th on the grid.
The squad led the race at the halfway mark thanks to strong stints from form Craig Baird, Maro Engel and finally Shane van Gisbergen, who came through a thrilling fight with Jamie Whincup (Maranello Ferrari) to take the lead.
Lacking straight-line speed compared to its rivals, it fought valiantly rolling the dice at the end with a pit-stop for fuel only to retake the lead for the final stint.
Unfortunately it was unable to hold off the Ferrari and was awarded a drive-through penalty when van Gisbergen fired the #51 Porsche into the wall at The Chase.
He then lost control while chasing the Maranello Ferrari at The Dipper ended the team’s race.
The marque’s sister #83 HTP Motorsport entry endured a difficult day copping a two minute penalty for ignoring the black flags for a breach of the rules early in the race.
The car piloted by legend Bernd Schneider, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana retired after 263 laps.
Meanwhile, the #61 Hogs Breath entry of David Reynolds, Dominic Storey and Mark Griffith was the second casualty in the race.
BMW draws a blank: After an elaborate lead-up campaign that included 3000km of testing, including a private Bathurst outing, the twin BMW Team SRM M6 attack came away empty-handed after showing prodigious pace.
The big coupes surprised with their lead-up pace but luck vanished in the race. After Russell Ingall’s unfortunate crash in the #7 machine he was sharing with Mark Skaife, Tony Longhurst and Timo Glock, the #60 had also been besieged with issues.
After being a front-runner a power steering problem put paid to a decent result for Steven Richards, Mark Winterbottom and Marco Wittmann with the car classified in 14th, nine laps down.
The #90 MARC Cars run M6 qualified second courtesy of Chaz Mostert and led the early running before co-drover Max Twigg clouted the wall which put the car 20 laps down before a gearbox issue ended its day.
Tekno fightback: Reduced to a single car entry before the race start, the defending winners qualified sixth but were forced to start from pit lane after the Queensland squad elected to switch its engine from its withdrawn #59 car into the #1 chassis.
A crash in qualifying from Ben Barnicoat ultimately ended the #59 McLaren’s hopes after failing to source a replacement rear chassis from Queensland.
The #1 650S piloted by Alvaro Parente, Rob Bell and Come Ledogar made rapid progress in the first hour before an engine problem struck the ex-Klark Quinn Australian GT car.
After dropping five laps to fix the issue, the trio produced the fightback of the race, almost returning to the lead lap, before eventually finishing a highly commendable fifth.
Audi’s Bathurst disappointment: The two-time winners were the best represented marque in the race with seven entries but its victory challenge never arrived.
The much fancied factory Jamec Pem Racing R8s saw their hopes evaporate inside the first three hours.
The #74 was eliminated on lap 7 when veteran Frank Stippler crashed at The Esses, while the #75 of Garth Tander, Christopher Hasse and Chris Mies was tagged by the Competition Motorsports Porsche at Turn 1, before being collected by Leanne Tander’s #94 MARC Cars entry.
The #75 eventually came home in 13th position.
Its next best performer the #5 GT Motorsport was taken out by the #32 Lago Racing Lamborghini while running on the lead lap in the top five.
There was some joy with two Audis coming home in the top 10 courtesy of #3 Ash Samadi/Daniel Gaunt/Matt Halliday in seventh and the #9 Marc Cini/Lee Holdsworth/Dean Fiore car in ninth.
Bittersweet Bathurst for Porsche: Porsche came to Bathurst with high hopes headlined by a factory effort featuring former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Kevin Estre.
The challenge faltered inside two hours when Bamber struck a Class C Porsche breaking the steering rack, prompting a withdrawal.
Competition Motorsports were in contention right up until the final hour thanks to an impressive display from Marc Lieb, rising star Matt Campbell and Patrick Long.
However, its challenge unravelled when Campbell pushed the #32 Lago Racing into a spin at Hell corner. The incident sparked its fourth penalty effectively ending its victory hopes, finishing a highly impressive second, a lap down on the winners.
The car did however claim the Pro-Am class.
The #912 Walkinshaw Porsche did however win the Class A Amateur Cup.
Kassulke’s emotional triumph: Less than 18 months after suffering a life threatening fiery incident at Phillip Island, Keith Kassulke helped the #91 MARC Cars Australia entry alongside Will Brown and Rod Salmon to an Invitational Class victory.
Kassulke suffered horrific third degree burns on the right side of his body and face which sidelined him from motorsport for six months. His recovery is still ongoing.
However, the native Queenslander has showed his fighting spirit to score an emotional first major endurance class win since his 2015 Dubai 24 Hours triumph prior to his life changing incident.
Unsung heroes: The Lago Racing Lamborghini squad of Roger Lago/David Russell/Steve Owen flew under the radar throughout the weekend to finish sixth despite being caught up in several incidents in the race.
Likewise the Lamborghini Huracan’s Bathurst 12 Hour debut resulted in a commendable 10th place finish for owner Jim Manolios, Ryan Millier, Dean Canto and ex-F1 driver Ivan Capelli.
Meanwhile, former Supercars full-timer David Wall acted as the perfect super-sub for the #21 Steve Richards Motorsport Class B Porsche squad.
Wall was drafted in to replace Xavier West, who contracted a stomach bug before the race. He then helped the team to victory in Class B.