Triple Eight Mercedes leads Bathurst 12 Hour

The #888 Triple Eight Race Engineering Mercedes-AMG

The #888 Triple Eight Race Engineering Mercedes-AMG

Triple Eight’s Supercheap Auto Mercedes-AMG leads the 2023 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour after the first quarter of the race.

Shane van Gisbergen assumed the lead during the second Safety Car period (the first being that which represented the official race start) and has managed to keep Manthey EMA Porsche driver Matt Campbell since then, despite traffic ensuring the top two stayed tightly bunched.

Behind the #888 Mercedes-AMG and the #912 Porsche are the #46 Team WRT BMW in which Valentino Rossi is behind the wheel, the sister #32 BMW piloted currently by Charles Weerts, and the #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG.

Rounding out the top 10 with three hours down and nine to go are the #65 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi of Chaz Mostert/Liam Talbot/Fraser Ross, the sister #777 Audi, the #44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG, the #99 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG, and the #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG.

Maro Engel had qualified the GruppeM machine on pole position and was handed the keys to the #999 Mercedes-AMG for the single file start once the field was released by the Safety Car after two laps around Mount Panorama.

Triple Eight Race Engineering’s own German, Maximilian Gotz, initially stuck with his compatriot but Engel moved to more than a full second clear of the Supercheap Auto car on Lap 7.

Thomas Preining (#912 Manthey EMA Porsche) remained third at that point and Luca Stolz (#75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG) fourth, while Augusto Farfus (#46 Team WRT BMW) had already cleared top Pro-Am runner Talbot (#65 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi) for fifth.

Dries Vanthoor (#32 Team WRT BMW) overtook Talbot for sixth on Lap 13, moments before the sole Pro class Audi crashed out of contention from around the back end of the top 10.

Christopher Haase (#74 MPC Audi) spun into the wall at Griffins Bend due to contact from Duvashen Padayachee (#44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG), although stewards opted to take no further action.

Ricardo Feller, in the sister #777 R8 LMS GT3 evo II, soon assumed the mantle of leading Audi driver despite starting 16th, while Gotz trailed Engel by four seconds after straight-lining The Esses on Lap 22.

An off for Talbot at The Chase on Lap 23 handed 10th position to Silver class leader David Wall (#6 Wall Racing Lamborghini), before Feller overtook Vanthoor for sixth on Lap 28.

Gotz was almost five seconds behind Engel when he pitted on Lap 34, in the 76th minute, with Preining and Jamie Whincup (#99 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG) following him into the lane.

Engel and Farfus stopped a lap later, the former handing over to Mikael Grenier, who assumed the lead again when Stolz pitted to bring an end to the cycle on Lap 36.

The #999 Mercedes-AMG was more than nine seconds up on the #888 Mercedes-AMG in which Gotz remained, with both keeping their starting tyres on.

Kenny Habul was third in the #75 Mercedes-AMG, from Mathieu Jaminet in the #912 Porsche, Maxime Martin in the #46 BMW, Frederic Vervisch in the #55 Schumacher Motorsport Audi, Weerts in the #32 BMW, Yasser Shahin in the #777 Audi, Philip Ellis in the #77 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG, and Prince Jefri Ibrahim in the #99 Mercedes-AMG.

Chaz Mostert was back in 17th and a lap down in the #65 Audi, having just served a drive-through penalty after driving over the blend line as he exited the lane following their first stop.

Grenier lapped the 13th-placed Car #99 on Lap 40 but his lead over the other Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG of Gotz had dropped below three seconds by then, and was less than one second on Lap 44.

Meanwhile, Habul had been quickly relegated out of the top five by the professional steerers, but Mostert was back in the top 10 on his 47th lap, albeit still one lap off the pace.

He passed second-placed Gotz on the road at The Chase on the leaders’ 51st lap, and was back on the lead lap himself with a carbon copy move on Grenier, 6.213km later.

Vervisch had risen to fourth before the #55 Schumacher Audi pitted again on Lap 55, just over two hours in, meaning Mostert inherited eighth position.

A Safety Car was called on Lap 59 after Stephen Grove spun at McPhillamy Park and the Pro-Am class #4 Grove Racing Porsche hit the wall with both ends.

While most took the opportunity to put, Grenier initially stayed out and hence GruppeM ceded the lead.

Van Gisbergen assumed top spot in the #888 Mercedes-AMG from Campbell in the #912 Porsche, Rossi in the #46 BMW, Weerts in the #32 BMW, Habul in the #75 Mercedes-AMG, Grenier in the #999 Mercedes-AMG, Talbot in the #65 Audi, Nick Catsburg in the #77 Mercedes-AMG, Aaron Cameron in the #44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG, and Craig Lowndes in the #222 Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG.

Van Gisbergen ran wide at Hell Corner upon the Lap 64 restart but managed to fend off Campbell and retain the lead while team-mate Jamie Whincup (#99 Mercedes-AMG), who was 11th, tagged the lapped Ross Poulakis (#101 Volante Rosso Motorsport Mercedes-AMG) at the end of that tour at Murray’s Corner.

One of Volante Rosso’s Silver class rivals, the #6 Wall Lamborghini, was soon in the garage after Adrian Deitz hit the wall at The Cutting.

Habul was already seventh when he had an off at The Chase then had to serve a drive-through penalty for a blend line breach, and while he lost no further positions then, Car #75 was 10th once he soon handed it over to Jules Gounon.

Van Gisbergen leads by 0.6226s after Lap 78.

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