BMW M Team WRT competed its first race in the 2023 Intercontinental GT Challenge, the Bathurst 12 Hour (AUS). The endurance classic also marked the first official outing of the team together with BMW M Motorsport. After twelve hours of racing, held in sunny summer weather, the #32 Shell BMW M4 GT3 took the chequered flag in fourth position. Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), Dries Vanthoor (BEL) and Charles Weerts (BEL) shared duties in the car. The #46 BMW M4 GT3, driven by Augusto Farfus (BRA), Maxime Martin (BEL) and Valentino Rossi (ITA), crossed the line in sixth place.
While Farfus, Martin and Vanthoor knew Mount Panorama Circuit already, Bathurst rookies Rossi, van der Linde and Weerts first had to get acquainted with the extremely tricky and partly very tight rollercoaster circuit. They mastered the challenge brilliantly and all three quickly found their rhythm.
Sunday morning at 5:45 local time, the #46 BMW M4 GT3 started the race from sixth position; the #32 was ninth on the grid. After eventful first hours of racing in which accidents caused several safety car periods, BMW M Team WRT was temporarily running within the top three but both cars lost positions again as the race went on. With two and a half hours to go, the #46 car needed to head to the garage for a quick repair due to a small issue with the brake light.
Round two of the 2023 Intercontinental GT Challenge will be held in three weeks’ time, the Kyalami 9 Hour in South Africa from 23rd to 25th February. There, Valentino Rossi will be replaced by BMW M works driver Philipp Eng (AUT).
Reactions after the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Andreas Roos, Head of BMW M Motorsport: “The Bathurst 12 Hour is always a fantastic event, and that was the case this year when we returned to Mount Panorama. A unique circuit and many passionate fans – that has been great. From a sporting point of view, the result has been disappointing in the end after all drivers and the entire team did a faultless job. Unfortunately we have not been competitive enough to fight for the podium and so the great effort has not been rewarded with the corresponding results. We take the positives: we brought both cars to the finish and we gelled well with BMW M Team WRT in our first official race together. The BMW M4 GT3 once more proved to be very reliable; we just had one minor technical issue with the #46
car. A big thank you to the drivers, to BMW M Team WRT and everybody involved at BMW M Motorsport for the superb job. Now we continue to work and prepare for the next race at Kyalami.”
Vincent Vosse, Team Principal BMW M Team WRT: “We had a disappointing result. Obviously we did not have the tools to fight for anything better. This is an incredible event, an incredible track and it’s a pleasure to be here, but in these circumstances it is a bit difficult. There is a very positive point and that’s the line-ups. All six drivers have done an outstanding job. They made no mistakes at all, they all had a similar speed. We also need to mention what Vale did; that was on a very high level for his first attempt at Bathurst. It was also really a pleasure to have Augusto in the team for the first time, and great to have Sheldon back with us after a few years. Now we are looking forward to Kyalami.”
Sheldon van der Linde (#32 Shell BMW M4 GT3, 4th place): “It’s honestly my favourite track on the calendar now, that’s for sure. I really had high hopes coming here and my expectations raised even higher when I drove the track for the first time so I am really thankful to BMW M Team WRT and BMW M Motorsport for giving me this chance to finally come to Bathurst. I already want to come back next year because I feel we have unfinished business. Unfortunately the race did not go as we kind of planned but we will have another chance in the future.”
Dries Vanthoor (#32 Shell BMW M4 GT3, 4th place): “It’s not the result we would have hoped for and we came for but everybody did a great job. Team, BMW M Motorsport, car, drivers – nobody made any mistakes. It was just the maximum we could do this time. I think you can say that we are the best of the rest. I hope that at the next rounds we will be capable of fighting with the other cars because at the moment we can’t. What we can do is to continue to work on the car and on ourselves but everybody did a great job.”
Charles Weerts (#32 Shell BMW M4 GT3, 4th place): “It has been my firsttime at Bathurst and my first race with BMW M Motorsport, so I am happy that the car is still in one piece. That was obviously the first goal. Fourth place is nothing dramatic but obviously we came here to Australia aiming a bit higher but the Mercedes have been way too fast for us and we could not do anything more. The strategy was good, the start was good, the car was good and we executed the job like we had to do it. We can be happy about our job and now we move on to the next one.”
Valentino Rossi (#46 BMW M4 GT3, 6th place): “My first Bathurst experience has been very good because it’s a great place. For us Europeans, it is a legendary place because we always play it on the simulator. To have the chance to race here and experience the real track is great. It is a fantastic circuit. You have to maintain attention but it is very enjoyable when you drive. I think that also my speed and performance were good. I feel good in the car; it is very good to drive, but during the race, especially in the hot conditions, we need a bit more pace. We could have been in the top five but overall it was a good race, and being the first experience, it was very positive.”
Augusto Farfus (#46 BMW M4 GT3, 6th place): “I am very happy. It was the first experience with BMW M Team WRT and it was great. Unfortunately we have not been rewarded with a better result. Vale did an incredible job as the whole team did. I think we have a great base to build on so I can’t wait to go to Kyalami soon. Thanks to BMW M Motorsport, to the team and my team-mates – everyone has done an incredible job.”
Maxime Martin (#46 BMW M4 GT3, 6th place): “We had a good start to the race. We have always been in a good pack and with the safety cars and so on we were running quite okay in the morning, but then we definitely lacked a lot of pace and we could not fight anyone. We also had a small issue. We were hoping for more than P6 but I think we can improve and am looking forward to the next one.”
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