The 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge has started with a spectacular twelve-hour race at Bathurst. Still in the dark on Sunday morning (5.45 am local time), the high-class GT field started into the race at the world-famous Mount Panorama Circuit, including five Mercedes-AMG GT3.
After a little over one hour of racing, two Mercedes-AMG GT3 also became involved in one of the many collisions that remained largely without effect for the #75 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 car. On the other hand, the second car that was involved, the #56 car of the Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing, had bad luck: the trio of Maximilian Buhk (GER), Maximilian Götz (GER) and Alvaro Parente (POR) made it to the finish of the race, but already got itself a delay that couldn’t be made up for after the repair break that was necessary.
Having started from 15th place on the grid, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 with starting number 75 stayed clear from any further difficulties in the remainder of the race and gradually worked its way up through the ranks. After seven hours, the quartet of Kenny Habul (AUS), Tristan Vautier (FRA), Jamie Whincup (AUS) and Raffaele Marciello (ITA) was on course for a podium finish for the first time. STRAKKA Racing’s #55 PRO-AM sister car also moved up into the group of the front runners after a start from sixth on the grid: with faultless stints, David Fumanelli (ITA), Nick Leventis (GBR), Cameron Waters (AUS) and Lewis Williamson (GBR) even racked up some laps in the lead at Mount Panorama.
The end of the race was equally dramatic as the opening stages: with twelve minutes of the duration of twelve hours left, there was a heavy accident at Sulman Park corner that resulted into the race being stopped. One of the cars involved was Nineteen Corp P/L’s starting number 19 that, in a blind corner, ran into a stationary Audi at the side of the track that had crashed shortly before. Fortunately, all drivers escaped by themselves, including John Martin (AUS) as the driver of the #19. Due to the amount of scattered debris on track, race control decided to declare the race.
Thus, the Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 saw its #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 classified second without a chequered flag having been waved. The #55 STRAKKA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 ended up in seventh place, equalling third position in the PRO-AM class. Sixth place in the PRO-AM class (P12 overall) went to the #8 Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Max Twigg (AUS), Craig Baird (NZL) and Tony D’
Alberto (AUS). The crashed #19 Nineteen Corp P/L Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Mark Griffith (AUS), John Martin (AUS), David Reynolds (AUS) and Liam Talbot (AUS) was classified ninth in class (P15 overall). After the early delay for the #56 Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing car, Buhk, Götz and last year’s winner Parente used the remaining laps for test purposes and finished the race in 28th place.
Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “What a turbulent season opener for the Intercontinental GT Challenge. Bathurst is always a very particular challenge for teams and drivers. I am all the more happy that our Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Teams have done so well at Mount Panorama. Second place in the overall classification and the podium finish in the PRO-AM class on top of that is quite a decent result. Thus, we have shown that we aim to be in contention for the Intercontinental GT Challenge title with our Mercedes-AMG GT3.”
Kenny Habul, Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 #75: “ Of course, that was a dramatic finale with the severe accident just before the end, but I am glad that everyone involved is okay. Concerning our race, I would like to thank Mercedes-AMG and the entire crew. I have been watching this race and its heroes like the legendary Peter Brock since I was a kid. For me, being part of it here has always been a huge dream. Finishing on the podium is sensational. Today is a great day for me!”
Tristan Vautier, Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 #75: “Had anyone told us prior to the race that we would finish second, I wouldn’t have believed it. The opposition was very strong. In the race, however, it was super. At times, we were in with a shot at victory, which is even more unbelievable when considering that almost everyone of us raced here for the first time. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 ran very well and above all reliably. That brought us the podium result.”
Maximilian Buhk, Mercedes-AMG Driver for the Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing #56: “I was very happy to be allowed to race here. The race and the track simply are great fun. I always love being here. Therefore, it is even more regrettable that an unnecessary incident so early in the race, just over one hour, made us drop back so much. After that, we were left without a chance really. Nevertheless, many thanks to the entire team for their great effort at their debut with the Mercedes-AMG GT3.”