New generation cars set for B12Hr debut
By Mat Coch
Thursday 30th January, 2020 - 11:00am
This year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will see the introduction of a host of new and updated GT3 machines with three all-new models set to hit Mount Panorama for the first time.
A total of 11 manufacturers will be represented in this year’s race with the bulk of the Class A (GT3) field sporting at least updates, if not entirely new cars, over those we saw 12 months ago.
In some instances the changes are subtle, while others – such as the Mercedes-AMG – are less so.
The only two brands not joining in the new car party are Ferrari, which is represented by a sole HubAuto Corsa 488 GT3, and Bentley which debuted its current generation Continental with M-Sport at the 2019 event.
Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3
R-Motorsport last year showed the previous model still had plenty of life, but this time around we’ll be exposed to three of Aston’s latest and greatest race car.
Sadly, the rumbling V12 is now consigned to the history books, swapped out for a Mercedes-built turbocharged 4-litre V8.
In terms of styling it’s also received a once over, with the new car looking somewhat more petite that the car it replaced.
Internationally, Aston Martin debuted the car in competition last year, though this weekend will be the first time it’s seen competition in Australia.
Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO
Changes to the Audi R8 LMS, now dubbed the ‘Evo’, are comparatively subtle but the sharp-eyed will spot the tweaks to the air intake above the grille.
Underneath there’s an all-new front splitter, a change made in an effort to make the car easier to drive for gentleman competitors.
There are a stack of mechanical updates too, including revised teeth in the differential and a more durable clutch, all designed to push out the life of some parts by 50 percent.
The new car made its debut in Australia at the start of last year’s Australian GT Championship, with Geoff Emery going on to drive it to victory in both the GT and Endurance Championships.
Honda NSX GT3 Evo
Though not technically a new car, the Honda NSX GT3 has never competed on Australian soil, making the appearance of the Honda Racing JAS entry especially interesting.
Revised for the 2019 racing season, the Evo builds on the fundamentals from the ‘original’ (second generation) NSX.
There’s more bodywork for a start, along with updates to the splitter and diffuser in an effort to improve cooling and reduce drag.
The additional cooling is most noticeable at the rear of the car, though there are louvres up front now too which weren’t there on the original.
Propelling it along is a 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine with revised throttle and ABS systems over its original GT3 machine.
Of course while the road going car might be all wheel drive and host a bunch of other technical trickery, GT3 regulations stipulate rear-wheel drive only and no hybrid power.
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO
If what the factory tells us is to be believed, as much as 50 percent of the Evo version of the Lamborghini Huracan is new over the car that raced at Bathurst in 2019.
There’s a more pronounced splitter for a start, and two sizeable diveplanes either side of what is now a carbon fibre bonnet (it was previously fibreglass).
Crucially, designers say that helps with cooling, which will come in handy across what is forecast to be a sweltering weekend.
Further back, the rear wing has been given the once over as has the diffuser.
Under the skin of the car there’s all new suspension with lighter front arms, tweaks made to the ABS, and fully adjustable power steering.
However, the most significant change is perhaps that to the engine; the car now running the 5.2-litre from the road-going Huracan having previously shared the donk from the Audi R8 LMS.
McLaren 720S GT3
Last year the brand-new McLaren wasn’t yet eligible to compete in the Bathurst 12 Hour, but this time around we’re set to see two of the 720S GT3s racing around the Mountain.
It’s a car that marks a significant deviation from McLaren’s previous GT3 efforts, with the factory itself involved in its development rather than farming it out to a third party as was the case with the 650S GT3.
An eight cylinder turbocharged engine is maintained and forms part of a ‘MonoCage II’ structure according to the factory – basically making it a stressed member of the car.
While Bathurst is set to be an all-new adventure for the car, it has seen action in Australia – indeed, Fraser Ross handed McLaren its first win with the car in Albert Park last March.
An extensive test programme from the factory prior to release chalked up 30,000 kilometres, while it first saw racing action in last year’s Gulf 12 Hours (a multi class race that allows GT3 entries).
One of the complications of the Bathurst 12 Hour is its early season date, coming before racing in Europe kicks off, which has historically meant new cars have had to sit out the event.
While there’s a push to move the homologation date for new cars forward to account for Bathurst, Mercedes-AMG went one better and moved production of its car earlier to have it ready in time.
That means the all-new Mercedes-AMG GT3 that we will see on track this year is a brand new car, making its official GT3 debut.
It’s a pretty special bit of kit, though most of its wizardry happens under its skirt.
Outwardly we’ll spot the enlarged grille emblazoned with the three-pointed star, which leads the grumbling eight-cylinder that has become synonymous with the car.
That front grille though holds other secrets, including being easier to repair or replace mid-race.
For the drivers there’s an automatic engine cut and ignition designed to kill the engine during a pit stop and fire it back up as its dropped off the jacks.
There are other tweaks to the suspension and component life cycles, though rather than performance those changes have been made with keeping the team’s hard working mechanics happy.
Porsche 911 GT3 R
The iconic Porsche shape remains fundamentally unchanged with the latest incarnation of the 911 GT3 R, but that masks a number of changes for the car.
Last year’s race winner was a 991.1 specification car, while the current generation is the 991.2 and comes with aesthetic and technical changes.
The brakes have received some serious attention with the premise to increase stiffness and feel for the antilock system for the drivers.
However, its in the driver’s seat that the biggest change has taken place with a new seat and adjustable pedal box.
The instrument cluster has been moved in an effort to improve the ergonomics of the car, while the newest model also boasts creature comforts such as air conditioning.