Audi Sport customer racing is returning to Australia as the title defender. The Intercontinental GT Challenge, in which Audi won the manufacturers’ classification for the third consecutive time last year, will kick off at Mount Panorama in Bathurst, on Sunday, February 3. It is the world’s only racing series for GT3 models with one round each being held on five continents. The two Audi R8 LMS cars of Audi Sport Team Valvoline with their professional driver squads spearhead the lineup. Three additional GT3 sports cars complete the brand’s presence at Bathurst.
For drivers and fans, the race track 200 kilometers west of Sydney is one of the great international classics: The 6.21-kilometer circuit with its concrete walls close to the edge of the track does not forgive any mistakes. In some of the 23 turns, speeds beyond 200 km/h are reached. A vertical difference of 174 meters between the lowest and highest points of the track stands for an unusual topography with approaches to some sections not fully exposed to the drivers’ view. Since 2011, GT3 race cars have been permitted to race in the Bathurst 12 Hour. Audi, with three victories, scored in 2011, 2012 and 2018, has been the most successful marque in this era to date.
“We can hardly imagine a more atmospheric opener of the Intercontinental GT Challenge than this race at Bathurst,” says Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “Another victory is our declared goal, but the competition this year is fiercer than ever before.” In Class A for GT3 race cars alone, 28 entrants from ten marques are pitted against each other, plus there are smaller classes for 13 additional race cars. Audi Sport Team Valvoline, like last year, relies on the three German Audi Sport drivers Christopher Haase/Christopher Mies/Markus Winkelhock. Mies has won the race on two previous occasions. The second R8 LMS of the local team will be shared by South African Kelvin van der Linde, Belgian Frédéric Vervisch – both Audi Sport drivers as well – and Australian pro Garth Tander, who has previously won a 24-hour race at Bathurst, so both driver pairings remain unchanged compared to last year.
Audi Sport Team MPC is putting two further Audi R8 LMS cars for a British and an Australian driver squad on the grid. Audi Sport driver Gordon Shedden, who has been contesting the FIA WTCR touring car racing series in an Audi RS 3 LMS, and his British compatriots Pete Storey and Matthew Neal are sharing an Audi R8 LMS for the first time. Their teammates are Australians Marc Cini, Dean Fiore and Lee Holdsworth, who also competed in this formation in 2018. Team Matt Stone Racing completes the group of Audi customer teams. Australians Todd Hazelwood/Roger Lago/David Russell are racing in an Audi R8 LMS for the first time. Following five free practice and three qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday, the 12-hour race will start on Sunday, February 3, at 5.45 AM local time (Saturday, 7.45 PM CET).