Reigning Blancpain Sprint Pro Cup champion Stuart Leonard got his 2018 season off to a flying start by winning the prestigious Bathurst 12 Hours on his first attempt. The 26-year-old Briton along with fellow Blancpain champion Robin Frijns (NED) plus Dries Vanthoor (BEL) scored a brilliant win in the annual Australian event that was brought to a close slightly early due to an accident.
The result marked a remarkable comeback by the Audi R8 LMS of Leonard/Frijns/Vanthoor which also earned Belgian Audi Sport Team WRT a début Bathurst victory in the 12-hour race at Mount Panorama that finished early on Sunday evening (local time). The trio overcame radio communication issues in the early stages, the team opting to make repairs which meant losing vital time in the pits. They then incurred a drive-through penalty for a violation during a yellow flag period which meant their Audi went one-lap behind the leader.
But a combination of fast, consistent and clean lappery by all three drivers plus clever tactics by the Audi Sport Team WRT in the pits, allowed the #37 Audi to unlap itself and join a thrilling three-way battle with Mercedes and Porsche, covered by a few seconds with the lead changing numerous times, over the final hours of racing. When the race was stopped by a red flag shortly before the end, Frijns led by 1.5secs. It meant Leonard and Frijns continued their fine form in which the duo jointly won last year’s Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.
Stuart Leonard said:
“The race weekend was pretty crazy. There were repeated setbacks but we never gave up, even when we were one lap behind. A really big thank you to Robin Frijns. He was instrumental in our victory with his fast, consistent lap times. Especially the last two and a half hours were incredible. I was racing at Bathurst for the first time. This amazing track reminds me of Nürburgring’s Nordschleife. Now I’ve achieved my third big endurance racing victory with Audi and Vincent Vosse’s team since 2015 following my 12-hour success at Sepang and a 24-hour victory in Dubai. I’m absolutely delighted.”
Source. Martyn Pass/Photo. Audi