The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hours, the opening race of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, is traditionally one of the first highlights of the season on the international GT racing calendar. R Motorsport will field two cars during the next race weekend from January 31st to February 2nd, 2020. One of the two Aston Martin Vantage GT3s will feature a special design from Bathurst partner, Castrol. DTM and GT3 star Jake Dennis will share the cockpit with a pair of brilliant entrants to the team, Rick Kelly and Scott Dixon.
At 39 years of age, New Zealander Dixon has an exciting CV, having begun his motor racing career in karting when only seven. After achieving success in Formula Junior Sport, his path finally led him via the Indy Lights and ChampCar series to the IndyCar Championship where he notched up the first of five championship titles to date in his debut season. Victory in the famous 500 Miles of Indianapolis in 2008 is just one of the stand-out results achieved in a long career, during which he has also gained plenty of experience in endurance racing. Dixon has previously won the prestigious Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona twice.
Scott Dixon: “I have never raced at Bathurst before, but I’ve watched races at the Mount Panorama Circuit back when I was a teenager. What I like most about the circuit is the high commitment, especially across the top, the high speed passages and then down the chase and all the way to the last corner. It’s much like a street course with the concrete walls and the very confined spots. You need an extremely good flow. I’ve done GT racing as such with the four Le Mans 24 hours races and other endurance events, but never GT3. I love doing the long distance races. It complements quite well with the IndyCar series at the moment to do Daytona 24h and Sebring 12h, but also Petit Le Mans, which was the first endurance race I did back in 1999.”
“Castrol itself is a very iconic brand. And it’s always been a great partnership with Rick Kelly. I know him from my years racing in Australia and I also teamed up with his brother to do the Gold Coast races back in 2010. Rick is a great guy. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Jake Dennis yet, but I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’ve heard that he’s super fast and very good. My expectations for the 12 hours: with the calibre of the team and the drivers that I am joining we’ve got to go in with the mindset of we’re going to be successful. I know it’s always difficult with the Balance of Performance and how each car is categorised. I just hope I can get up to speed quick enough and be a good addition to what is going to be a very strong team. I’m really looking forward to it and it’s really nice to get back to Australia.”
Rick Kelly, R-Motorsport’s second new entrant, is a veteran at the Mount Panorama circuit where he has already contested the 1000-kilometre Australian Supercars race 18 times. In 2000, the Aussie completed his first year in single-seater racing. He promptly finished runner-up in the Australian Formula Ford Championship and secured his first title in the Australian Formula Holden the following year. The driver from Down Under has lined up in the V8 Supercars Championship since 2002, winning the title in 2006. The two wins at Mount Panorama in the Bathurst 1000, Australia’s most famous touring car race, count among his biggest triumphs.
Rick Kelly: “I couldn’t be more excited to be heading back to the Bathurst 12H and to be joining the R-Motorsport Team in the Aston Martin. Since my last 12h campaign in 2016 I have been keeping a close eye on the event with a keen eye to returning, it’s such a great event with many different challenges to what I’m used to in the Supercar at Bathurst. Most drivers would agree that visiting Bathurst just once a year isn’t enough, having the chance to push the Aston across the top of the mountain is something that I’m really looking forward to, in places where we are on the brakes in the Supercar, these guys are on the throttle. It’s going to be an awesome challenge!
“I have been working the R Motorsport Team in the background for several months now to piece this project together and they have been a real pleasure to work with, so I’m really looking forward to being a part of their Team at the event.”
“Getting the chance to visit Portugal and test the Aston is a real thrill, especially having the chance to share the car with Scott and Jake, two world class talents that will be a great asset to us as we piece together our attack on the mountain early next year. I had to pinch myself when I saw the Aston for the first time with all 3 of our names above the door. Jake’s efforts last year were nothing short of impressive both in the race and also in qualifying, and I’m stoked to work with Scott again, we know him best for his Indy achievements but his efforts in our Supercar at the Gold Coast a few years back were outstanding considering he hadn’t driven that car before so I’m sure he’ll be on top of the Aston in no time.”
“It’s a real honour to also be representing Castrol and BP in the Bathurst 12H in the Aston Martin with R Motorsport. Both brands are great supporters of my Supercar’s campaign and are just as excited as I am about this project and the chance to head top the mount together once again.”
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will be run for the 19th time in 2020. In the last race, the #62 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 fielded by R-Motorsport was in striking distance of the front-runners for most of the race. DTM star Dennis, who had clocked the fastest time in the 2019 shootout, eventually made it onto the second rung of the podium in the company of his team-mates Marvin Kirchhöfer and Matthieu Vaxiviere. This podium finish was also the strongest result for Aston Martin in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour since records began. The race traditionally opens the new season of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Jake Dennis: “My favourite part of the track has to be the mountain section. The flow from corner to corner is just prefect, the walls being so close and the speed we take them is sensational. The first few laps you do at the start of the weekend are very daunting. But when you attack them for qualifying you have to put all that aside and just go for it. Skyline is probably the most challenging corner. The car becomes super light over the crest and if you overcook it on entry the rear wheels come off the ground it feels like. So getting the balance is very difficult.”
“My memories from last year are mixed. The podium was good but I was super disappointed to loose out on the win with 10 mins to go. But if someone said to us at the start of the weekend that we would finish P2 with 3 rookies I would have taken it any day of the week. Having two experienced guys with me in the car is amazing and overwhelming. I can’t wait to start working with them and learn things off them. It’s a strong line up and I’m very excited to get things started there.”
“Also having a sponsorship like Castrol on board with us for Bathurst 12 Hour is incredible. The car looks amazing, I just hope it’s as fast as it looks! I would love to get into Superpole again. I managed to achieve the fastest lap last year and just to experience a lap at Bathurst by yourself is one of kind. You can’t get that anywhere else.”
The 6.213-km Mount Panorama circuit is situated amidst stunning scenery and features long straights, a mix of fast and medium-pace turns and sections that wind around the mountain itself with a difference in height of 174 meters. The track represents one of the biggest challenges for driver, team and car on the international GT3 calendar.
Teams have five practice sessions in all to prepare for qualifying and the race itself. Two qualifyings determine who goes through to the decisive Top Ten shootout, lasting 45 minutes, which decides the order of the top ten positions on the grid.
R-Motorsport will continue to field two Aston Martin Vantage GT3s in 2020 as they did in the last race at the start of the year – not the V12 this time, but the V8 as raced in this year’s Blancpain GT series. The driver pairing of the second vehicle will be announced at a later date.
Dr Florian Kamelger, Team Principal: “We are fielding the best possible combination of drivers at Bathurst with Australian Supercars champion and two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Rick Kelly, and Scott Dixon, who is a five-time IndyCar champion and winner of the 500-Mile Indianapolis, plus Jake Dennis, DTM newcomer and runner-up from 2019. We are delighted that stars such as Rick and Scott will be there to boost our efforts in the Bathurst project and would like to thank our partners, Castrol and BP, for their amazing support. They are the ones, who have made it possible for us to take part in this sensational race in the first place. After our excellent second place finish at the start of this year, another podium finish in the endurance classic in 2020 would be a dream result.”