Porsche customer teams achieved excellent results on the spectacular Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst/Australia on Sunday. At the wheel of the 911 GT3 R fielded by Competition Motorsports, Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA), Porsche Junior Matt Campbell (Australia) as well as Marc Lieb (Germany) and David Calvert-Jones (Australia) finished second overall and won the Class A-GT3 Pro-Am after a spirited chase through the field. Other class victories at the prestigious race, which was contested by 14 automobile manufacturers, went to the 911 GT3 R of Walkinshaw GT3, the 911 GT3 Cup of Steve Richards Motorsport as well as the Cayman of PROsport Performance.
For the 911 GT3 R, the third major long distance race of the year after the 24-hour classics of Dubai and Daytona also concluded with a success. In Dubai, Herberth Motorsport had notched up a sensational overall victory; in Daytona Alegra Motorsports won the GTD class: It was a perfect start to the season for the 500+hp customer sports racer featuring the new ultra-modern four-litre flat-six engine with direct fuel injection.
It was 5:45am on Sunday morning and still dark when the 52-strong field took off into the season-opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge on the 6.213-kilometre-long storied racetrack in the state of New South Wales. The early race start and the extraordinary combination of 23 fast and slow corners, which put incredible demands on drivers, are typical for the rollercoaster circuit in Bathurst in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.
The Australian Porsche Junior Matt Campbell knows the selective racetrack well. Driving the 911 GT3 R run by Competition Motorsports, he put in an immaculate first stint. Although he was relegated down the field to rank 18th after one of the 16 safety car phases, he kept a cool head. With an inspired performance he made up nine positions before handing the #12 vehicle off to David Calvert-Jones, who subsequently swapped the cockpit with Marc Lieb, the overall Le Mans winner and reigning World Endurance Champion, as well as Patrick Long. They not only caught up the front runners but took the lead of the pack over long stretches. Matt Campbell then took the wheel again for the final stint and, despite a drive-through penalty, put in a convincing final dash to the flag to achieve second overall for his team as well as the class victory.
However, for the 911 GT3 R fielded by the Walkinshaw GT3 customer team with factory support, the race came to an abrupt end after just two hours. Initially, things looked very promising for the #911 vehicle. As a newcomer to the Porsche factory squad, Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) was the traditional start driver and in the dark kept out of any trouble on this difficult racetrack to edge his way forward lap by lap. After one hour he was running in second place. His teammate Earl Bamber (New Zealand) continued the charge and swept into the lead. But while attempting to lap a slower competitor, he collided, damaging the steering of the 911 RSR. Repairs would have taken too long and the dream of a Bathurst victory for the 2015 outright Le Mans winner and his teammates was dashed. The third driver Kévin Estre (France) did not get a chance to drive.
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager GT Customer Motorsport: “That was a tremendous race weekend with ups and downs. We managed to adapt the 911 GT3 R to this challenging racetrack over the practice sessions and during the qualifying, so we were competitive in the race right from the start. The number 911 vehicle made it to the front, but unfortunately had to retire after a collision. So the #12 stepped up to the mark and battled its way to second place and class win after a fantastic final sprint. Congratulations to all of our customer teams who, regardless of the class they were contesting, tackled the challenges of this race successfully.”
Mark Webber, Porsche ambassador: “It was a sensational experience for me to return to Bathurst after 22 years and watch this incredible race. It was a very long day for the drivers and teams and everyone got a fright at one point or another. That’s totally normal on such a unique racetrack. I’m thrilled about the hard-earned second place for the #12 car and also about the tremendous effort of the other Porsche customer teams. They all did a great job.”
Marc Lieb (911 GT3 R #12): “Second place and class victory feels pretty good. We had to cope with a lot of minor setbacks, probably more than any other team, and that alone makes this a super result.”
Patrick Long (911 GT3 R #12): “My stints were good. During the second stint I unfortunately nudged a Mercedes. I wanted to overtake it to snatch the lead but he didn’t budge an inch and I didn’t want to risk anything. So I decided to pull back and keep my position. But I was on the dirty side of the track and I couldn’t avoid touching the car. Luckily nothing more happened.”
Matt Campbell (911 GT3 R #12): “I’m very pleased with this result. In my last stint I made a big mistake when my foot slipped from the brake pedal and I hit an opponent. But I was lucky. It was my first race with the 911 GT3 R and this team. They all supported me brilliantly and I was able to learn a great deal from such great race drivers as Marc and Patrick.”
David Calvert-Jones (911 GT3 R #12): “What a race. This was my fourth time at Bathurst but none was as exciting as this. It’s fantastic that all the work that we put into the team has been rewarded with such a result. Everyone worked perfectly together today. That was the key to success.”
Earl Bamber (911 GT3 R #911): “I was in the lead and wanted to lap a slower vehicle. The driver obviously didn’t see me, he turned in and hit me. My steering was so badly damaged that we had to throw in the towel. It was clearly my fault. I was just too impatient; I should have waited longer. I’m so sorry for the team. It’s such a shame. Up to that point everything was going really well for us.”
Laurens Vanthoor (911 GT3 R #911): “During the first laps of my stint I tried to avoid taking any risks. Although I was faster than the cars ahead of me I didn’t attack. Only after the field had sorted itself out did I pick up the pace slightly. Everything ran well. It was a good start to this difficult race. Of course we’re disappointed that we couldn’t finish it. In the days leading up to the race our team worked perfectly together and had every opportunity to finish far up the front.”
Kévin Estre (911 GT3 R #911): “Bathurst is one of the toughest races of the year. With so many cars out on the track it’s important to survive the first hours. We didn’t manage to do this today. I hope we get another chance next year.”
1. Vilander/Lowndes/Whincup (SF/AUS/AUS), Ferrari 488, 290 laps
2. Lieb/Long/Campbell/Calvert-Jones (D/USA/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 289
3. Kane/Smith/Jarvis (GBR/GBR/GBR), Bentley Continental, 289
4. Talbot/Martin/Padayachee (AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 289
5. Parente/Bell/Ledogar (GB/GB/F), McLaren 605s, 289
6. Lago/Owen/Russel (AUS/AUS/AUS), Lamborghini, 288
7. Samadi/Gaunt/Halliday (AUS/NZ/GB), Audi R8, 288
8. Strauss/Kelly/Mardenborough (D/AUS/GB), Nissan GT-R, 288
9. Cini/Holdsworth/Fiore (AUS/AUS/AUS), Audi R8, 287
10. Manolis/Millier/Capelli/Canto (AUS/AUS/I/SA), Lamborghini, 285
Class A-GT3 Pro-Am
1. Lieb/Long/Campbell/Calvert-Jones (D/USA/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R
Classe A-GT3 Am
1. Talbot/Martin/Padayachee (AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R
1. Grant/Okeeffe/West (AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
1. Jones/Braams/Viebahn/Moller-Madsen (AUS/NL/D/DK), Porsche Cayman