Gounon: ‘Very important’ to defend B12H crown despite clashes

Picture: Jules Gounon Facebook

Defending Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winner Jules Gounon was not giving up the opportunity to defend his crown despite multiple clashes.

Frenchman Gounon was part of the victorious Bentley Team M-Sport squad in 2020, but is the only driver of the trio to return in 2022 with Jordan Pepper and Maxime Soulet absent.

Gounon is now a factory Mercedes-AMG driver and will this weekend drive the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG with Kenny Habul, Martin Konrad, and Luca Stolz.

However, his return to Mount Panorama to defend his crown came at a cost.

The 2020 race-winning squad

The 27-year old forfeited the GT World Challenge Europe round at Magny-Cours which clashes with Bathurst this weekend, but says the 12 Hour has a special place in his heart.

“I had a clash with GT World Challenge Europe in Magny-Cours but for me it was very important to come back with Kenny here which is the first time more opportunity for a Pro-Am line-up to win this race overall,” Gounon told Speedcafe.com.

“For me, it’s a place I love, the emotion I got in 2020 was amazing but also the first year when I arrived I fell in love with the place.

“You walk the first time up the Mountain and you’re like ‘wow, are we really going to race this place?’

“It’s a track you really need to respect… every lap you are smiling under the helmet.”

Having Gounon back at Bathurst was also high up on Mercedes-AMG’s list.

The German manufacturer has five other cars on the grid and a host of additional factory drivers split amongst the entries, but were also set on bringing Gounon back.

“I think for them [Mercedes-AMG] it was very important to have me here to defend the title but also for Kenny it’s a big race, he’s been dreaming about winning this race for many years,” he added.

“At the end I was happy, I would have been happy both ways, but this race has a very big place in my heart.

“Even though by missing Magny-Cours I [concede] my chance for the championship GT World Challenge Europe so I can’t win it anymore, but for me, this place is everything.”

The change from Bentley to Mercedes-AMG has resulted in a lot more seat time for Gounon, enabling him to get comfortable in the car quickly.

When it comes to daunting circuits like Mount Panorama, more experience in the car has a clear benefit.

“It’s been now two years that I’m a Mercedes-AMG Performance Driver and that I’ve worn the jacket and driven those amazing cars,” commented Gounon.

“In Bentley we’d have, let’s say, only 10 races per year where in Mercedes I did 30 weekends last year and this year will be 40 weekends, so I get lots more confidence by driving a lot.

“When you are in the car every weekend then you get closer to the limit and more sharp.”

Opening practice for the Bathurst 12 Hour kicks off tomorrow at 10:05 local time/AEST.

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