SunEnergy1 Mercedes leads Porsche at halfway in Bathurst 12 Hour

The #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG

The #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG

The SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG leads at the halfway mark of the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour as competitors play out their strategies.

Manthey EMA had jumped its Porsche ahead of Triple Eight’s Supercheap Auto Mercedes-AMG and into the lead thanks to fuel-saving and a shorter pit stop during the second Safety Car period (excluding the race start) at Mount Panorama.

However, with SunEnergy1 looking to optimise how it deploys its trio of Luca Stolz, Jules Gounon, and Bronze driver Kenny Habul, it grabbed the lead in the sixth hour despite having completed three more stops (and a drive-through) so far than the #912 Porsche.

After 156 laps, Gounon now leads by 18 seconds over Mathieu Jaminet, who is being followed by the #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG, with Craft-Bamboo Racing’s #77 Three-Pointed Star machine fourth, from the #32 and #46 Team WRT BMWs.

Broc Feeney is seventh in the Supercheap Auto-backed #888 Triple Eight Race Engineering Mercedes-AMG having just completed the car’s fifth pit stop.

Those seven surviving Pro class cars represent the totality of the entries currently on the lead lap, with the #777 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi eighth, from the #65 MPC Audi which Chaz Mostert is currently strapped into and the #24 Volante Rosso Mercedes-AMG.

Back at the end of the third hour, it was the #888 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG in the hands of Shane van Gisbergen held a lead of a few tenths of a second over the #912 Manthey EMA Porsche being piloted by Matt Campbell.

Third and fourth were the WRT BMWs, with #46 heading #32, from the pole-sitting #999 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG, the #65 MPC Audi, the #777 MPC Audi, the #44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG, the #99 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG, and the #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG.

Van Gisbergen and Campbell continued to run within a second of each other into the fourth hour, but several seconds ahead of Valentino Rossi in the #46 BMW.

The #65 Audi lost almost three laps when Liam Talbot glanced the wall at Griffins Bend and had to retreat to the pits on Lap 79, while GruppeM’s Mikael Grenier soon passed WRT’s Charles Weerts for fourth.

Van Gisbergen’s lead was 1.3s when a Safety Car was called on Lap 91 in response to an incident between two Silver class cars, namely the #44 Mercedes-AMG and the #47 MPC Audi, at The Esses.

Broadcast cameras did not fully capture the incident but the result was Aaron Cameron making contact with the wall at the top of The Dipper in Car #44 and Theo Koundouris coming to rest broadside at the bottom of The Esses in #47.

It triggered the third pit stop cycle and a change for the lead, with the Manthey EMA Porsche’s stationary time less than that of the Supercheap Auto Mercedes-AMG after Campbell had been saving fuel.

Thomas Preining thus took over first place in Car #912, from van Gisbergen, Augusto Farfus in the #46 BMW, Maro Engel in the #999 Mercedes-AMG, Sheldon van der Linde in the #32 BMW, Prince Jefri Ibrahim in the #99 Mercedes-AMG, Nicky Catsburg in the #77 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG, Yasser Shahin in the #777 Audi, Stolz in the #75 Mercedes-AMG, and Geoff Emery in the #222 Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG.

The #65 Audi got a lap back when it took the wave-by ahead of the Lap 96 restart, at which time Catsburg and Stolz passed the #99 Triple Eight entry for sixth and seventh.

Preining moved 2.3s clear after the first lap back under green and was 2.9s to the good when a Safety Car was called on Lap 100, just before the end of the fourth hour, after Fabian Schiller became stranded in the Hell Corner run-off road in Nineteen Corporation’s #19 Mercedes-AMG GT4.

The top five stayed out but SunEnergy1 and Craft-Bamboo took the opportunity to pit their Mercedes-AMG GT3s again, before the third restart at the commencement of Lap 103, which gave the 13th-placed #65 Mostert/Talbot/Fraser Ross Audi its other lap back.

Preining bolted almost three seconds clear again as van Gisbergen defended second place from BMW WRT’s Farfus on the restart lap.

The bottleneck incentivised Engel to attack Farfus and they made contact up Mountain Straight before the GruppeM Mercedes-AMG was held wide at Griffins Bend, losing fourth position to the other WRT BMW of van der Linde.

Van Gisbergen chipped away at Preining’s margin but it blew back out beyond three seconds due to traffic and the New Zealander dropping a wheel off at The Chase on Lap 112, which invited pressure from Farfus.

Six laps later, van Gisbergen pitted and Feeney got into the Supercheap Auto car for the first time today, in the 279th minute, meaning Farfus inherited second and Stolz was back into the top five in the SunEnergy1 car.

Preining was 6.4s up on Farfus when those two and third-placed van der Linde pitted on Lap 129, with the #912 Porsche in the hands of Jaminet resuming just in front of Feeney.

Craft-Bamboo sealed track position gain on the BMWs when Daniel Juncadella pitted on Lap 133 and an off-sequence SunEnergy1 car retained the lead when Stolz eventually stopped and handed over to Gounon on Lap 137.

The #75 Mercedes-AMG was almost nine seconds up on the #912 Porsche, which was being closely followed by the #888 Mercedes-AMG and the #999 Mercedes-AMG.

Juncadella was fifth for Craft-Bamboo before Dries Vanthoor took sixth position on Lap 138 when he passed the sister #46 WRT BMW in which Valentino Rossi was behind the wheel at Griffins Bend, while Mostert ran eighth and Richie Stanaway ninth in Triple Eight’s #99 car.

Mostert next pitted on Lap 145 and Stanaway on Lap 149, both staying in their cars but both dropping off the lead lap.

Feeney stopped from third on Lap 154 and completed a fuel-only stop before rejoining in seventh, last of those currently on the lead lap.

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