22 cars representing nine full-season manufacturers head to Mount Panorama in Australia this weekend for the opening round of 2020’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli campaign: the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour (January 31 – February 2).
Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes-AMG and reigning champions Porsche, as well as championship newcomers Aston Martin and Lamborghini, will battle for #IntGTC honours and outright victory as part of a 39-strong field featuring some of the world’s best GT drivers and teams.
That’s borne out by six of last Sunday’s Daytona 24 Hours winners – two overall and four in class – heading directly to Bathurst where Renger van der Zande, Scott Dixon, Augusto Farfus, Chaz Mostert, Andrea Caldarelli and Harrison Newey could become the first to win both events on consecutive weekends.
Equally, the nine-strong full-season manufacturer roster is one more than the previous record set last year, while 22 #IntGTC nominations – all of which feature white Liqui-Moly windscreen banners – also trumps Bathurst’s previous best by two.
PORSCHE | 4x 911 GT3 R
The reigning champions return to Mount Panorama with the latest 911 GT3 R, which makes its Bathurst debut 12 months on from Matt Campbell, Dennis Olsen and Dirk Werner’s famous victory with Earl Bamber Motorsport.
EBM are back with another all Pro line-up featuring Bamber, who combines team management with driving duties, his IMSA co-driver Laurens Vanthoor and Bathurst legend Craig Lowndes. Meanwhile, Porsche’s full-season #IntGTC crews of Campbell/Mathieu Jaminet/Patrick Pilet and Werner/Thomas Preining/Matteo Cairoli complete a formidable Pro line-up.
EBM’s Pro/Am 911, which features David Calvert-Jones, Jaxon Evans and Romain Dumas, fills Porsche’s fourth and final Intercontinental slot.
MERCEDES-AMG | 3x GT3 2020 & 1x GT3
A double Intercontinental podium and outright pole position in 2019 means Mercedes-AMG also have serious form at Mount Panorama. However, while Porsche’s latest 911 GT3 R is already a proven race winner, Affalterbach’s new-for-2020 contender is making its #IntGTC debut this weekend.
Three of the new cars feature amongst the manufacturer’s nominations, as well as a galaxy of global and local GT stars.
GruppeM Racing led the factory’s charge last year and are back to better their third place overall with the familiar duo of Mercedes-AMG drivers Maxi Buhk and Raffaele Marciello, plus championship debutant Felipe Fraga. Three fully fledged works drivers – Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman – will also be a threat in the Craft-Bamboo/Black Falcon entry, but it’s perhaps Triple Eight’s brace of Australian Supercars stars (and former Bathurst 12 Hour winners) Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup that could deliver Mercedes-AMG’s first #B12Hr victory since 2013. Last year’s Drivers’ Championship runner-up Maxi Goetz adds further muscle to an already impressive line-up.
A previous-generation Mercedes-AMG shared by SunEnergy1’s Pro/Am crew completes the manufacturer’s full quota of nominations.
AUDI SPORT | 4x R8 LMS GT3
Clearly Audi Sport wasn’t best pleased about losing its Manufacturers’ title to Porsche last season! Eight factory drivers make the trip Down Under as part of Audi Sport Team Valvoline’s expanded three-car Pro effort, while Hallmarc’s Pro/Am entry is also nominated.
Audi struggled at Bathurst last year but have more 12 Hour wins in the GT3 era than any other manufacturer. Dries Vanthoor, who scored one of them in 2018, is joined by Christopher Haase and Frederic Vervisch, while two-time winner Chris Mies shares #22 with Audi’s new factory recruit Mirko Bortolotti and Garth Tander. Another new addition, Mattia Drudi, links up with Kelvin van der Linde and Markus Winkelhock.
BMW | 1x M6 GT3
Logistical difficulties have prevented Walkenhorst Motorsport from running their two full-season entries this weekend, but the lone M6 GT3 should be competitive based on its line-up and 2019’s result.
True, Walkenhorst endured a Bathurst to forget last year – its 12 Hour race lasting just 28 laps – but the other M6 GT3 finished fifth overall and fourth of the Intercontinental entries thanks to Schnitzer’s strong run. Augusto Farfus and Chaz Mostert, who were both part of that line-up and also won the Daytona 24 Hours together last weekend, join Nick Catsburg who scored BMW’s best-ever Intercontinental result with Walkenhorst at Kyalami in November.
BMW are still searching for their first GT3 victory at Bathurst but did claim pole position there two years ago courtesy of Mostert.
FERRARI | 1x 488 GT3
HubAuto Corsa return refreshed after skipping Kyalami and eager to recapture the form that propelled them and Ferrari to California 8 Hours victory last year. And their driver roster certainly suggests they mean business.
Tim Slade is returns after racing the 488 at Bathurst and Laguna Seca, scene of that impressive victory in March, while his co drivers are no strangers to the HubAuto garage, either. Daniel Serra drove for the Taiwanese team at Spa last year, and Marcos Gomes has contested several GT World Challenge Asia rounds.
BENTLEY | 2x CONTINENTAL GT3
No GT3 resonates with the Mount Panorama faithful quite like M-Sport’s Bentley Continental, two of which again head Down Under in pursuit of an elusive first Intercontinental and Bathurst victory. The latest iteration certainly proved itself a podium contender last year when both entries finished inside the top-eight.
A recent shake-up in its long-time driver roster sees established Bentley Boys Maxime Soulet, Jules Gounon and Jordan Pepper join forces while new full-time recruits Seb Morris, Alex Buncombe and Oliver Jarvis share the second entry.
It’s actually Jarvis’ second stint with the team: he was part of the trio that helped secure Bentley’s last Mount Panorama podium in 2017.
HONDA | 1x NSX GT3
Neither iteration of Honda’s NSX GT3 has ever raced at Mount Panorama so this weekend really does represent a voyage of discovery for the JAS Motorsport-run operation, which is also making its 12 Hour debut. Nevertheless, the team and its drivers aren’t afraid of springing a surprise after claiming pole position on their Intercontinental debuts last year.
Indeed, Dane Cameron, Mario Farnbacher and Renger van der Zande know the NSX inside out, while the latter arrives in Australia flush from winning the Daytona 24 Hours last weekend.
Japanese manufacturers have traditionally excelled at Bathurst where Toyota, Mazda and Mitsubishi claimed victories during the pre-GT3 era, and Nissan famously won in 2015. JAS’s lone entry requires a trouble-free run if it is to have any chance of adding Honda’s name to the 12 Hour trophy.
ASTON MARTIN | 4x VANTAGE AMR GT3
A new car and gun driver line-up headline Aston Martin’s first trip to Bathurst as a full-season Intercontinental GT Challenge entry. And there’s nothing to suggest it can’t become the first manufacturer since McLaren to win on its championship debut.
Two Pro entries fielded by R-Motorsport certainly pack a punch. Jake Dennis hustled the team’s previous-generation Vantage to Pole Shootout’s fastest time last year before going on to finish second overall. The Briton returns 12 months on with former Bathurst 1000 winner Rick Kelly and IndyCar great Scott Dixon (a Daytona winner alongside Van der Zande last weekend) bedecked in the iconic Castrol colours, while Olli Caldwell, Luca Ghiotto and Marvin Kirchhoefer uphold the team’s traditional matte grey and blue ensemble.
Garage 59 are also contesting all five rounds and have two cars entered at Bathurst. Unusually, its Pro/Am line-up features four drivers: Ams Alex West and Chris Goodwin, and Pros Come Ledogar and AMR factory ace Maxime Martin.
LAMBORGHINI | 1x HURACAN GT3
Lamborghini, like Honda, features just one full-season entry. But it is another case of quality over quantity for the Italian manufacturer, which makes its Intercontinental debut at Bathurst.
FFF Racing, Marco Mapelli and Andrea Caldarelli dominated Europe’s Blancpain GT Series last season, while Dennis Lind won the championship’s Asian title with the same team/manufacturer combination a year earlier. What’s more, the Dane’s Italian co-drivers helped Lamborghini record a one-two finish in Daytona’s GTD class on Sunday.
‘LAPS FOR CASH’ BUSHFIRE DONATION
Championship organisers, SRO Motorsports Group, will play a unique role in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour’s coordinated response to the catastrophic bushfires burning across Australia since November last year.
The event previously announced a series of fundraising initiatives in aid of its official charity, the Australian Lions Club Foundation National Bushfire Appeal. The organisation of dedicated volunteers will distribute 100% of donations to the communities and wildlife affected by bushfires.
SRO’s total contribution to the same charity is based on the performance of each Intercontinental GT Challenge entry contesting Australia’s International Enduro. In line with Bathurst’s own fundraising suggestions for each team, SRO will donate $5 AUD for every racing lap completed by all entries nominated to score Intercontinental points.
Intercontinental’s website and Facebook page plus SRO’s GT World Youtube channel will livestream final practice, both qualifying sessions, the Pirelli Top-10 Pole Shootout and race, as well as support classes this Saturday and Sunday.
Geoblocking restrictions apply in Australia and New Zealand. Fans there can watch the same action live on Fox Sports 506, 7Mate (race only), Fox Sports NZ and Kayo Sports.
LIQUI-MOLY BATHURST 12 HOUR TIMETABLE
Thursday 30 January
10:45 – 13:30: Town to Track Parade
Friday 31 January
08:40 – 09:15: Practice 1 (excluding Gold/Platinum drivers)
09:15 – 10:15: Practice 2
12:20 – 13:20: Practice 3
15:05 – 16:05: Practice 4
Saturday 1 February
08:45 – 09:45: Practice 5
12:40 – 13:25: Qualifying 1 (all classes)
13:35 – 14:05: Qualifying 2 (GT3 only)
17:10 – 17:55: Pirelli Top-10 Shootout
Sunday 2 February
05:45 – 17:45: Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour
Source. SRO Motosports Group