SunEnergy1 wins Bathurst 12 Hour after Engel penalty

The #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG

The #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG

The SunEnergy1 Mercedes team has gone back-to-back in the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, taking victory in a 2023 race which exploded with late drama.

Fellow Mercedes squad GruppeM Racing held what looked to be a race-winning 30-second lead until they were forced to change a faulty modem which had caused data logging in Car #999 to intermittently fail.

The change took place in GruppeM’s final pit stop and while Maro Engel was dispatched ahead of the Manthey EMA Porsche which had followed Raffaele Marciello into the lane from second position, the #75 Mercedes-AMG remained a threat.

SunEnergy1 responded by pitting next time through and sending Jules Gounon back out with just more fuel onboard, a decision which allowed him to hold on to the lead he had inherited a lap earlier.

It proved the race-winning move when Engel could not find a way through before he unloaded Car #75 at The Chase on Lap 300, with 47 minutes to go in the race.

The German would duly have to serve a drive-through penalty which put Gounon back into first place, and he subsequently withstood pressure from Matt Campbell to beat the #912 Porsche to the chequered flag by 0.9267s after a race-record 323 laps covering more than 2000km.

The win is the second in a row at Mount Panorama for not only SunEnergy1 but also each Luca Stolz and Kenny Habul, the latter of whom got his laps out of the way during the first half of the contest.

For Gounon, it is three straight given he was part of the victorious Bentley crew in 2020.

Campbell/Mathieu Jaminet/Thomas Preining take second and Engel salvaged third for himself, Mikael Grenier, and Raffaele Marciello.

So hard was the German pushing in the closing stages, he crossed the stripe just 0.4910s behind the Porsche in the end, having been more than 10 seconds behind after serving his penalty.

Team WRT finished 43 second further back in fourth, Sheldon van der Linde taking the chequered flag in the #32 BMW which he shared with Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts.

Triple Eight Race Engineering finished just off the lead lap in fifth in the #888 Supercheap Auto Mercedes-AMG of Broc Feeney/Maximilian Gotz/Shane van Gisbergen, after they had to serve a drive-through penalty following a pit stop breach in the ninth hour.

The #46 WRT BMW of Augusto Farfus/Maxime Martin/Valentino Rossi ended up sixth after dropping off the lead lap when forced to pit to clean an oil leak off the tail lights of the M4 GT3.

Melbourne Performance Centre won the Pro-Am class with Chaz Mostert home seventh outright, two laps down in the #65 Audi in which he was joined by Liam Talbot and Fraser Ross.

Craft-Bamboo Racing slipped from fifth to eighth after Daniel Juncadella crashed late in the piece in what was the last of the Pro class finishers, with Phillip Ellis and Nicky Catsburg having also driven the #77 Mercedes-AMG.

Rounding out the top 10 were the #777 MPC Audi of Christopher Mies/Ricard Feller/Yasser Shahin and the #99 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG of Jamie Whincup/Richie Stanaway/Prince Jefri Ibrahim, with MPC also winning the Silver class courtesy of the #10 Audi steered by Daniel Gaunt/Dylan O’Keeeffe/Andrew Fawcett to 12th outright.

With three hours to go, Stolz pitted from the lead and resumed in fourth position in the SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG after a carefully-timed fuel-only stop.

That handed the official race lead back to GruppeM and, while divergent strategies clouded the picture, it appeared that Car #999 did have the advantage in effective terms, subjective to stint length and driver time considerations.

The other five remaining Pro class cars were on similar strategies to that of GruppeM, with the #912 Manthey EMA Porsche a distant second, from the #32 WRT BMW, SunEnergy1 having just taken that aforementioned stop, the #46 WRT BMW, the #888 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG which had not long served a drive-through penalty and, soon to drop a lap, the #77 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG which ran seventh.

GruppeM’s Marciello continued to circulate more than 25 seconds up on Manthey EMA’s Jaminet as Farfus was forced to pit the #46 BMW from fifth, almost nine-and-a-half hours into the race, in order to clean oil off the M4 GT3’s tail lights.

Jaminet was 28 seconds behind when he peeled off for Manthey EMA’s penultimate pit stop on Lap 255 and Campbell resumed in third place, for a double stint to the chequered flag.

Marciello was into the lane two laps later but remained in the GruppeM Mercedes-AMG and exited the pits in second place, with a comfortable margin over the #912 Porsche.

On Lap 263, with just over two hours remaining, Stolz brought the SunEnergy1 car into the pits and vacated the seat for Gounon, who resumed in third at almost 40 seconds behind the #999 Mercedes-AMG.

As the contest moved into its 11th hour, with Marciello 30 seconds ahead of Campbell, fourth was the #32 WRT BMW and fifth was the #77 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG, with the #888 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG and the #46 WRT BMW a lap down in sixth and seventh, respectively.

The leading Pro-Am runner was the #777 MPC Audi in eighth, but two laps behind the outright leader.

Race officials appeared in the GruppeM garage in the first half of the 11th hour given that the #999 Mercedes-AMG had developed a data logger issue.

It turned out that Marciello, who was still almost 32 seconds ahead of the second-placed Porsche, would not need to pit immediately but would need to have a new modem installed at its next pit stop.

However, that requirement was predicated on the existing modem being inoperable, and then it came to light that the modem was working intermittently.

Raising the stakes even further, the time to change the modem was estimated at 30 seconds, a potentially decisive delay given how far back Campbell was circulating.

The problem for Manthey EMA, though, was that Gounon was hacking into his deficit relative to Campbell, bringing it under one second on Lap 289, with barely an hour and 10 minutes remaining.

On Lap 290, Marciello pitted and GruppeM got to work in the lane, adding fuel, changing tyres, and switching the modem.

Campbell followed him in but, rather than bring a strategic move, the Porsche was simply out of fuel, although Manthey EMA also chose to threw new tyres at Car #912 as well in a bid to cover the SunEnergy1 car which was still circulating on the race track.

It meant Engel was able to drive the yellow Mercedes out of the pits with a margin of several seconds over the Porsche, and the focus switched to the orange Mercedes.

Gounon pitted a lap latter and SunEnergy1 gave him fuel only, allowing him to emerge almost four seconds up on Engel, whose car now had a functioning modem in what was a huge relief for GruppeM.

Armed with fresh tyres, the German made light work of the deficit to Gounon, who was forced to be slightly defensive at The Chase on Lap 294, at the start of the final hour of the race.

Catching was one thing but passing was another, and Gounon hung on when Engel had a reasonable look at The Chase on Lap 299.

A lap later, the flashpoint came when Engel showed the nose at the same corner but succeeded only in tagging the #75 Mercedes-AMG and causing it to spin.

Gounon was second once he righted the SunEnergy1 entry, but trailing Car #999 by more than six seconds and only about 5.5s up on the #912 Porsche instead of 13.

It took only minutes for Race Control to advise that a drive-through penalty had been issued, and Engel gave up a lead of 9.0s on Lap 305 before exiting the pits in third.

Gounon therefore inherited first position with a touch over 36 minutes to go, but Campbell had turned the wick up and was only 2.6s behind the new race leader.

Juncadella was running fifth when he spun into the wall exiting The Chase on Lap 306 but Race Control held off on the Safety Car and the Craft-Bamboo driver managed to clear the scene himself.

Meanwhile, Campbell brought the gap down to 1.6s after 308 laps, at which point 30 minutes remained.

Three laps later, it was less than a second, but that was where the Queenslander’s progress stalled, as Engel brought his deficit to the lead back under 10 seconds.

Campbell nevertheless continued to push hard, glancing the wall at ‘The Tree’ on Lap 320, but it was not to be for Porsche this time, and they only just beat the GruppeM entry in the end.

Of 24 starters back at 05:45 local time/AEDT, 17 cars made the finish, with technical problems accounting for the #55 Schumacher Motorsport Audi which looked a chance of winning in Pro-Am, and the only Pro class Audi crashing out early after contact between the MPC-run #74 entry and the #44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG sent it spinning into the barriers at Griffins Bend.

At the length of two Bathurst 1000s plus one more lap, the 2023 Bathurst 12 Hour set a new event distance record of 2006km.

Round 2 of the Intercontinental GT Challenge is the Kyalami 9 Hour, which takes place on February 23-25.

Results: Race

Pos Num Team/Sponsor Driver(s) Car Cls Laps Race time
1 75 Sun Energy 1 K.Habul/J.Gounon/L.Stolz Mercedes-AMG GT3 PRO 323 12:00:40.1193
2 912 Manthey EMA M.Campbell/M.Jaminet/T.Preining Porsche GT3 R Spec 2 PRO 323 12:00:41.0460
3 999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM M.Engel/M.Grenier/R.Marciello Mercedes-AMG GT3 PRO 323 12:00:41.5370
4 32 Team WRT S.van der Linde/D.Vanthoor/C.Weerts BMW M4GT3 PRO 323 12:01:24.8650
5 888 Supercheap Auto Racing S.van Gisbergen/B.Feeney/M.Goetz Mercedes-AMG GT3 PRO 322 12:00:57.4136
6 46 Team WRT A.Farfus/M.Martin/V.Rossi BMW M4GT3 PRO 322 12:01:16.8255
7 65 Sportsbet Team MPC C.Mostert/F.Ross/L.Talbot Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 PAM 321 12:02:26.3657
8 77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo D.Juncadella/P.Ellis/N.Catsburg Mercedes-AMG GT3 PRO 321 12:02:47.9356
9 777 The Bend Motorsport Park / MPC C.Mies/R.Feller/Y.Shahin Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 PAM 320 12:01:18.0783
10 99 Boost Mobile Racing J.Whincup/R.Stanaway/J.Ibrahim Mercedes-AMG GT3 PAM 319 12:01:56.7039
11 24 Tony Bates Racing /Makita T.Bates/J.Love/D.Reynolds Mercedes-AMG GT3 PAM 316 12:00:47.6937
12 10 MYLAND Team IMS D.Gaunt/A.Fawcet/D.O’Keeffe Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 SIL 316 12:01:32.7278
13 9 Hallmarc Team MPC L.Holdsworth/D.Fiore/M.Cini Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 PAM 316 12:01:47.0932
14 101 Harrolds Volante Rosso M’Sport R.Poulakis/J.Hunt/J.Hui/K.Tse Mercedes-AMG GT3 SIL 310 12:01:31.2560
15 50 MMotorsport /Vantage Racing T.Harrison/J.Ojeda/G.Wood/D.Crampton Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 SIL 309 12:02:27.0017
16 47 Supabarn Team MPC D.Russell/J.Webb/T.Koundouris/J.Koundouris Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 SIL 301 12:02:27.8902
17 111 111Racing/MRA Motorsport G.Taunton/D.Currie/G.Donaldson MARC I Mazda INV 283 12:01:01.0992
NC 55 FUCHS Lubricants Racing B.Schumacher/J.Golding/F.Vervisch Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 PAM 243 9:17:34.6530
NC 19 Nineteen Corporation C.Pancione/F.Schiller/M.Griffith Mercedes Benz INV 210 9:52:25.1669
NC 222 Scott Taylor Motorsport C.Lowndes/A.Davison/G.Emery/S.Taylor Mercedes-AMG GT3 PAM 177 6:53:14.6129
NC 44 Valmont Racing M.Zalloua/D.Padayachee/S.Pires/A.Cameron Mercedes-AMG GT3 SIL 89 3:23:29.2526
NC 6 Wall Racing T.D’Alberto/D.Wall/G.Denyer/A.Deitz Lamborghini Huracan SIL 70 3:12:14.8533
NC 4 Grove Racing A.De Pasquale/B.Grove/S.Grove Porsche  911 GT3R PAM 56 2:06:05.0762
NC 74 The Bend Motorsport Park / MPC C.Haase/P.Niederhauser/M.Drudi Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 PRO 13 33:59.0971

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