Habul defends Engel over bungled Bathurst 12 Hour pass

Kenny Habul has defended Maro Engel for this pass. Picture: Fox Sports

Kenny Habul has defended Maro Engel for this pass. Picture: Fox Sports

Kenny Habul has come to Maro Engel’s defence despite seeing his car turned around by the German in the battle for victory at the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

Engel turned Jules Gounon around when he tried to pass the SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG for first position at The Chase early in the final hour of the contest.

It turned out to be a happy story for SunEnergy1 when a drive-through penalty for the GruppeM Mercedes-AMG put Gounon back into a lead which he would not relinquish.

However, Habul claimed his mood was not particularly dark even as the incident unfolded, noting that Engel, a factory Mercedes driver, is sometimes one of his co-drivers.

“It’s my car and we were leading the race and I saw it going backwards through the grass and, to be honest, I wasn’t upset,” said the Australian

“You know, he has to do that; that’s what he does.

“Sometimes we’re team-mates and that’s what I want him to do when we drive together; and all of us, any of us.

“We’re all good friends, we’re more than friends – we’re like family – and, to be honest with you, that’s what you’ve got to do.

“He was the quickest this week and I’d be disappointed if we couldn’t continue, but I had no animosity at all when I saw my car screaming through the grass because that’s what we do, that’s what we all do, and if the roles were reversed, I think he’d be the same.”

Engel started the stint with new tyres whereas Gounon was repeating a set but the German reasoned that his rubber advantage was diminishing by following Car #75 so closely and hence had to attempt the pass.

“The problem is that I obviously knew I had a tyre advantage but, when you’re running behind, in the slipstream, your tyres start to overheat and they degrade bigger,” explained the German.

“I knew I had to make the move rather quickly than wait longer because I knew I’d start to suffer degradation and my tyre advantage would be gone, so that’s why I chose to try the move when I did.”

Gounon said “sorry” to his Mercedes stablemate through a television interview and Engel opened up on their post-race conversation.

“I congratulated him,” he recounted.

“He’s a three-time Bathurst winner, so he’s three up on me.”

Engel charged to the finish after serving his drive-through but came up half a second shy of passing the Manthey EMA Porsche for second place at the chequered flag.

He said that he respected the decision to penalise him but would not comment on whether he agreed with it when asked to clarify that point by Speedcafe.com, while co-driver Raffaele Marciello did not wish to speak in the post-race press conference in order to prevent “messy media”.

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