Throwback Thursday: Bathurst, a race car, a kangaroo – what could possibly go wrong?

In the first of a regular new feature series, we will be introducing Throwback Thursday which will have a lookback at the different, quirky and sometimes untold motorsport stories which we think you will find interesting and entertaining.

There are many racetracks around the world where local wildlife is considered a possible risk.

While track managers and officials do their best to minimise possible drama, sometimes things don’t always go to plan.

One of the most infamous international incidents came at Road America in 2006 where Brazilian Champ Car driver and former champion Cristano da Matta hit a deer heading into turn six at speed in a testing accident which ended his open-wheel career.

The natural bush setting of Bathurst’s Mt Panorama racetrack means that it has attracted plenty of local wildlife over the years including echidna, kangaroos and albino wallaroos.

One year even a horse made its way out of an adjacent paddock at the top of Mountain Straight and roamed onto the tarmac during a race – to the astonishment of the drivers heading to Hell Corner at speed.

While there are plenty of highlight reels of kangaroos invading the track at Bathurst, probably the most famous incident came in 2004 when Jim Richards hit a roo at speed while approaching The Cutting.

The impact sent the kangaroo flying over the fence while the damage to the left-hand front of Richard’s Commodore basically ended his race.

The famous footage making sporting highlight reels around the world.

The Bathurst 1000 & Bathurst 12 Hour races both have a history of being gate-crashed by kangaroos at all times of the day.

While most find their own way off the track, as the cars sneak past under yellow flags, there is always the possibility of race-affecting incidents, which Richards can certainly attest to.

With the 2023 12 Hour starting today, we decided to have a look back at the 2015 event where a kangaroo was struck by the BMW M3 GTR driven by Anthony Gilbertson, ending his race not long after the early morning start.

Gilbertson had entered his BMW E46 V8 M3 GTR in the Class D category alongside the likes of the Daytona Sports Car, Audi TT RS & BMW M Coupe and his co-drivers were co-owner Karl Begg & Jason Clements.

Gilbertson had also previously raced at Bathurst in the 2013 Bathurst 12 Hour in a BMW 335i and the 2014 Bathurst Production Touring Car races in a BMW 130i.

The BMW E46 V8 M3 GTR was a replica of the cars raced in the American Le Mans Series between 2001 & 2006.

The original E46 M3 was powered by the S54 engine, an 8000 RPM 3.2L straight six, however the AMLS V8 version was homologated with a BMW 4.0L V8 making 367kw (493hp) or a 117kw (158hp) increase over the S54 engine.

The AMLS BMW E46 V8 M3 GTR was controversial from the start as only 10 road going examples were ever built by BMW. It was also the feature car in the 2005 Need For Speed: Most Wanted.

Gilbertson’s car was however powered by a Daytona Prototype 5.0L version of the BMW V8, built by Dinan Engineering in the USA, with 448KW (600HP).

The 2015 race had an almost capacity grid with 50 cars entered. Gilbertson had qualified the car 36th overall and second in Class D in a time of 2:17.13. Taking the first driver stint in the dark, Gilbertson had piloted the car from 36th  to 30th  overall, and first in class by lap six.

On lap seven things took a turn for the worse when a kangaroo jumped in front of Gilberston while coming on to Conrod Straight.

The still framing of the in-car video shows the car at 100% throttle, approaching 220kph and that Gilbertson had less than two seconds to react – the consequences are obvious when you check out the video.

Gilbertson was shaken, but uninjured, although the kangaroo was not so lucky.

Post-race, the car was repaired and then sold to Andre Mortimer who raced the car in New Zealand and won the BMW Race Drivers Series in NZ in 2017.

As you would expect, Gilbertson has etched memories of his run in with the roo.

“The lead up to the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour went extremely smoothly and the team was extremely confident after Qualifying,” said Gilberton.

“To this day I still remember that the first six laps of the race were some of the most memorable laps I’d had of Bathurst. I mean how many people actually get to start the 12 hour and drive laps of Mt Panorama in the dark?

“The lap of the accident was actually quite chaotic. I’d had a call on the radio that there was a car in the wall at The Cutting, so I was cautious approaching that part of the track.

“I didn’t realise that by the time I got there the car was trying to recover and was in the middle of the track at the apex of the corner.

“I only just got through the inside of him. Then coming down Conrod I was focusing on an Aston Martin GT4 ahead of me and was thinking I’d be passing him either before or just after the Chase.

“The video footage and pictures always show more light than there was inside the car. I only saw the Kangaroo when it passed into my headlights so at 220kph it felt like a split second.

“I remember steering left and it collected the front right side of the car. The impact took out my front right wheel, took the brake line off the wheel, the Carbon Fibre Bonnet split and flipped up and cracked on the engine mounts off the block.

“So after impact I had no vision, no steering and no brakes. All I was concerned about was the cars behind me. If I hit the wall and speared back across the track about three other cars may have collected me as well.

“Luckily the car went right onto the grass and then ran along the concrete wall a fair way down the straight before stopping.

“Obviously everyone in the team was fairly dejected after the incident.

“There was one funny story later that evening. We went to the Bathurst RSL for dinner that night and we met the marshals that were posted right where I hit the Kangaroo.

“They told me it got so hot during the race that later in the day race control had to bring out a safety car to clean up the remains of the Kangaroo as the Marshalls couldn’t stand the smell!!! will have a full team on the ground at this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-hour.

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