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Pro-Ams shape as Bathurst 12 Hour dark horses
Monday 30th January, 2023 - 6:00am
A number of Pro-Am entries are well-placed to pull off an upset result at this weekend’s Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
While a Pro-Am car won the race in 2022, namely the SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 entered by Kenny Habul and run then by Triple Eight Race Engineering, that triumph occurred in what are nowadays unique circumstances, with no Pro class for what was ultimately still a pandemic-affected edition of the Mount Panorama GT3 enduro.
This time around, as has ordinarily been the case since 2017, teams are free to field cars steered solely by Platinum- and/or Gold-ranked drivers.
All four manufacturers which are represented in the Pro class will have at least one all-factory driving crew, while the Supercheap Auto-backed Triple Eight Race Engineering entry is comprised of two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Shane van Gisbergen, his regular Supercars team-mate Broc Feeney, and Mercedes-AMG’s Maximilian Gotz.
However, history shows that Pro-Am cars, which must include at least one Bronze-ranked driver, can finish on the podium outright, and hence can even be the very first to the chequered flag if circumstances play out favourably.
Among them this year are the high-profile Triple Eight combo of Jamie Whincup/Richie Stanaway/Prince Jefri Ibrahim in a Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport/The Bend trio Christopher Mies/Ricardo Feller/Yasser Shahin.
Another team to enter the seven-strong Pro-Am class is Schumacher Motorsport, which counts Brad Schumacher himself, PremiAir Racing’s James Golding, and Audi factory pilot Frederic Vervisch as its three drivers.
PremiAir Team Principal Matty Cook and Supercars race engineer Geoff Slater will work in the Schumacher garage this weekend, and the former is bullish about their chances.
“We’re definitely looking at an outright result,” Cook told Speedcafe.com.
“If all the cards fall our way – as we know, it’s a very long race – we get to that 11-hour mark and we’ve got someone quick in the car, who knows what can happen?
“The Pro-Ams still have the luxury of a lucky dog throughout the day, from hours three to 11, but there’s no reason that at the end of the day with an hour to go and a fast guy in the car and we’re on the lead lap… Who knows what’s going to happen?”
As Cook alluded to, the existence of the wave-by from the start of the third hour until the end of the 11th, while available to any car not on the lead lap just before the end of a Safety Car period, should be a particular help for Silver- and Bronze-ranked drivers.
Still, even before the introduction of the wave-by, a Pro-Am entry scored an outright podium as recently as 2018, when the Black Swan Racing Porsche was the third car home.
David Reynolds, sharing a Mercedes-AMG with gentleman driver Tony Bates and GT3 regular Jordan Love, is a little more reserved about their prospects, but acknowledges the potential for a Pro-Am winner.
“I don’t see it happening, but you never know,” the 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner told Speedcafe.com.
“There could a lot of problems with the Pro cars; crashes, whatnot. Essentially, a Pro-Am car is two Pros and one Am, so if they get the Am driver laps out of the way, and something happens and you still happen to be on the lead lap, definitely that’s possible [winning outright], but really it comes down to your amateur’s performance.
“Jordan obviously knows the cars very well; he drives them full-time, where I sort of breeze in and breeze out,” added Reynolds, a semi-regular in GT World Challenge with Bates in recent years, although in an Audi R8 LMS GT3.
“We’re going to rely on Jordan to do most of the heavy lifting hopefully, but I love Jordan, I’ve known him for a long time and really get along with him well.
“He’s someone I have an awesome relationship with, so it’s good fun and hopefully we can jag a trophy.”
Officially, seven vehicles are entered in the Pro-Am class, although the SunEnergy1 car could also have been among them considering Habul is a Bronze driver according to the FIA’s rankings, while co-drivers Jules Gounon and Luca Stolz are Platinum.
Instead, it is part of an eight-strong Pro class, comprised of four Mercedes-AMGs, two BMWs, an Audi, and a Porsche.
Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo Racing will, however, need a replacement for Lucas Auer, who sustained back injuries in a crash in practice for the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Practice at Mount Panorama starts this Friday.
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