The opening round of the 2020 Australian Endurance Championship gets underway this weekend as part of the annual Bathurst 12 Hour event, with registered teams competing in the GT3 Pro-Am and Silver categories, the Invitational MARC II cars and GT4.
From reigning champion Geoff Emery – who joins long-time friends and rivals Tony Bates and Max Twigg in the #24 Bostik Audi alongside rising star Dylan O’Keeffe – to Mark Griffith in the new Mercedes-AMG GT4, the field includes some impressive lineups, although it must be remembered that under the Australian GT regulations, full Pro series entries are not eligible to score Championship points.
Practice has seen an impressive pace with Australian GT regular Yasser Shahin – who is joined by brother Sam, Supercar sensation Anton De Pasquale and GT star Nick Foster – is running in parallel to their Triple Eight Race Engineering team-mates led by 2019 Australian GT race winner Shane van Gisbergen, who ultimately finished Friday’s final practice session as the outright pace-setter.
The Silver category sees the strongest Australian GT field with the Lamborghini of Adrian Deitz, Cameron McConville and Tony D’Alberto battling D’Alberto’s 2018 Australian Endurance Championship winning team-mate Max Twigg, who is paired with Geoff Emery, Dylan O’Keeffe and Tony Bates. The Trofeo Motorsport team led by team regular Dean Canto is joined by an all-new driver lineup that includes his former Supercars ‘Development Series’ team-mate Grant Denyer, Liam Talbot – who took victory in the Trofeo Huracan alongside van Gisbergen at The Bend in 2019 – and 12 Hour rookie Marcel Zalloua.
Joining them in the Silver class battle is 2019 Australian GT race winner Fraser Ross alongside 2017 Australian Endurance Champion Dom Storey – the pair joined at Bathurst by Martin Kodric, although the international professional – like the other international drivers in the AGT cars, will not be eligible for championship points.
The final Silver category entry will be the #96 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Brett Hobson, Kurt Kostecki and Garth Walden – Hobson and Kostecki having turned laps at Bathurst in November as part of the Pirelli AGT SuperSprint.
In the Pro-Am category Australian GT veteran Marc Cini returns in his Hallmarc Audi for the fourth season alongside Dean Fiore and Supercars regular Lee Holdsworth, the trio looking for a strong haul of AGT points and a return to the Bathurst 12 Hour Pro-Am podium after a third-placed finish in 2019.
Joining them in Pro-Am will be the #777 Mercedes-AMG of the Shahin brothers, De Pasquale and Foster, the four drivers starting their weekend off in solid form threatening not just for top honours in Australian GT, but also class victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour.
The ‘Invitational’ MARC II Mustangs will see four cars in action, with a number of drivers who contested the Gold Coast Australian GT event in 2019 rejoining the field. New MARC Cars team boss Geoff Taunton leads the #95 entry alongside rising star Bayley Hall, former AGT front-runner Warren Luff and Brad Schumacher.
Adam Hargraves also returns in his #20 entry alongside Cedric Sbirraz-zuoli, Daniel Jilesen and Steve Owen. Supercars regular Nick Percat leads the #91 entry alongside the impressive Broc Feeney – who starred on his Gold Coast AGT debut – and fellow rising star Aaron Cameron. The #92 entry also fields a talented youngster in Tyler Everingham who will join Hadrian Morrall – who returns to AGT after a stint alongside Richard Gartner in 2019 – and Englishman James Kaye who also has a strong relationship with Australia from back in the Super Touring days.
The GT4 category will also see the Australian competition debut of Mark Griffith’s stunning new Mercedes-AMG GT4, the AGT regular joined by superstar team-mates Dirk Muller and Harrison Newey, although the two International drivers will not be eligible to score championship points.
Qualifying at midday on Saturday will set the grid for the 12 Hour journey around Mount Panorama which starts at 5:45am (AEDT) on Sunday February 2.
Rnd#1 Australian Endurance Championship
Mount Panorama, Bathurst, New South Wales
6. Adrian Deitz/Cameron McConville/Tony D’Alberto – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO [SILVER]
24. Tony Bates/Geoff Emery/Max Twigg/Dylan O’Keeffe – Audi R8 LMS GT3 [SILVER]
29. Dean Canto/Liam Talbot/Grant Denyer/Marcel Zalloua – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO [SILVER]
59. Fraser Ross/Dominic Storey/Martin Kodric – McLaren 720S GT3 [SILVER]
96. Brett Hobson/Kurt Kostecki/Garth Walden – Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 [SILVER]
9. Marc Cini/Dean Fiore/Lee Holdsworth – Audi R8 LMS GT3 [PRO-AM]
777. Yasser Shahin/Sam Shahin/Anton De Pasquale/Nick Foster – Mercedes-AMG GT3 [PRO-AM]
20. Adam Hargraves/Cedric Sbirraz-zuoli/Daniel Jilesen/Steve Owen – MARC II Mustang [INV]
91. Aaron Cameron/Broc Feeney/Nick Percat – MARC II Mustang [INV]
92. Hadrian Morrall/Tyler Everingham/James Kaye – MARC II Mustang [INV]
95. Geoff Taunton/Bayley Hall/Warren Luff/Brad Schumacher – MARC II Mustang [INV]
19. Mark Griffith/Dirk Muller/Harrison Newey – Mercedes-AMG GT4 [GT4]
Source. 321 Ignition Media