At the Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia, round one of the 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge, the number 60 BMW M6 GT3 of BMW Team SRM was the only GT3 car from Munich that managed to cross the finish line. Having qualified third, DTM champion Marco Wittmann (GER) and his team-mates Steve Richards (AUS) and Mark Winterbottom (AUS) had to make do with 14th place in the race.
The three drivers completed a total of 281 laps of the classic Mount Panorama Circuit. In an eventful race with countless incidents and safety car phases, the trio produced a flawless performance. Only a technical problem stood between them and a better result. After the start, car number 60 successfully battled it out at the front at Australia’s most popular GT endurance race. Wittmann was running fourth when he reported problems with the power steering for the first time. BMW Team SRM lost some ground – and laps – during the ensuing repair works. Nevertheless, the team put up a good fight, making it to the finish line in 14th place after 12 hours.
The race came to a premature end for BMW DTM driver Timo Glock (GER) and his Australian team-mates at BMW Team SRM, Mark Skaife, Russell Ingall and Tony Longhurst. Running in tenth place approaching the halfway point of the race, Ingall hit the barrier and was consequently forced to retire the number 7 BMW M6 GT3.
The green number 90 BMW M6 GT3 had caused a stir in qualifying and over the first two hours of the race. Chaz Mostert (AUS) secured second place on the grid for the MARC Cars Australia team and took the lead early in the race.
However, following contact with the barriers, his team-mate Max Twigg (AUS) had to pit again after the first driver change. Long repair works followed. Shortly before the three-hour mark, the BMW M6 GT3 rejoined the race and set the fastest lap times of the whole field again. With a little more than five hours to go until the chequered flag, Mostert, Twigg and Morgan Haber (AUS) ultimately had to retire from the race.
BMW works driver Jörg Müller (GER) and the two BMW Motorsport Juniors Ricky Collard (GBR) and Nico Menzel (GER) did not get the chance to compete in the race. A collision in qualifying caused so much damage to the number 99 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 that it could not be repaired in time for the early race start on Sunday at 5:45hrs local time. Still, the two juniors gained valuable experience in the practice sessions at Mount Panorama. The Walkenhorst crew took part of the race, supporting BMW Team SRM with their two cars.
The appearance at Bathurst was the official opener of a milestone year for the BMW talent promotion. 40 years ago, the BMW Junior Team made its debut with drivers such as Marc Surer (SUI), Manfred Winkelhock (GER) and Eddie Cheever (USA).
The next race event for the Australian BMW M6 GT3 teams is scheduled for 2nd to 5thMarch, when the Australian GT Championship will kick off with the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide (AUS).
Marco Wittmann (No. 60 BMW M6 GT3, 14th place): “This was a tough race – und a great experience here in Australia. This event is just great fun. My first stint was quite okay, the pace was good. But then we suffered a technical problem, which made us lose some ground over the course of the race. We didn’t give up and kept pushing. So we managed to come 14th in the end, although we obviously had hoped for more from P3 on the grid. The qualifying performance was really good. We proved that we can be fast at this track. Bathurst was worth the trip.”
Timo Glock (No. 7 BMW M6 GT3, DNF): “This event is absolutely amazing. For a race like this it’s worth flying around the world to be part of it. The atmosphere is unique, the track is unbelievable – and a huge challenge. You really feel that the Australians experience motor racing differently, there are a lot of emotions involved. I had some good fun with my team-mates. They are pure racing legends here in Australia. As such, it’s a shame we didn’t make it to the finish. Our first third of the race was good, we didn’t have any major problems. A crash like the one Russell had can happen any time here. Any small mistake is punished hard at this track. You hit the wall straight away, there are no run-off zones. In any case, I had never got up at 04:00 in the morning for a race and then started at 05:45. This was a great experience. I would love to come back next year.”
Jörg Müller (No. 99 BMW M6 GT3, DNS): “Obviously it was a big disappointment for us not be able to race on Sunday with our BMW Motorsport Juniors. But that’s motor racing! However, being part of this fantastic event was certainly an amazing experience for Ricky Collard and Nico Menzel. They did a great job over here and got quicker lap by lap. The experience they gained at the Mount Panorama Circuit will always stay with them.”