100 DAYS remain until the 2017 running of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, Australia’s international enduro.
It is set to be another stunning race thanks to enormous interest from a range of teams, drivers, manufacturers and supporters from all around the world.
Yesterday, we looked through the first five key moments that helped build the race to what it is in 2017. Today we’re into the top five things, people or events that have helped shape Australia’s 12 Hour.
Do you agree or disagree with our selections? Do you have your own personal moments to include? Get involved and join the conversation via our Social media accounts by using #B12hr!
And.. happy 100 days to go!
5. Aussie’s against the world!
WE HAVE got some great drivers here, but it’s not often they get to back themselves against the best in the world in equal machinery. GT3 gives them that chance, and over the years has presented several key moments where an otherwise unheralded Aussie – known only in his backyard – has gone head to head with a champion from overseas.
And for all the Supercars stars to tackle the race, perhaps the most popular example of this was in 2014, when Finnish ace Mika Salo found himself bundled up behind a damaged SLS Mercedes Benz driven by Greg Crick. Now, we all knew Cricky was up to the job – but the overseas Audience had little clue about who this Tasmanian gentleman was. But boy, did they ever learn quickly..
What was then dubbed the ‘Launceston Car Dealer versus the Ferrari F1 driver’ remains one of the most discussed B12hr moments ever.
4. Shane van Gisbergen.
SHANE’S position on this list might seem high, but some of his moments in the race have been the most viral of anything that’s ever happened in the race.
His battle with Mika Salo and then Bernd Schneider early in the 2014 race is the stuff of legend – in one particularly wild lap he tried to pass him at McPhillamy, then the dipper, both places where overtaking is generally not. a. thing.
And then, after a year away, he took the goalposts and moved them into another field when he smoked the Bathurst lap record in qualifying for this year’s race – and then for good measure did it again during the race itself. Alvaro Parente and Jono Webb were big, big parts of McLaren’s victory this year, but the role the remarkable Kiwi played was huge.
Oh, and the 2014 battle and his 2016 pole lap have a combined 250,000 views on You Tube, too..
3. Going digital, then going network.
THE 12 HOUR pioneered the live streaming to a wide audience of motor racing in Australia. What started as an opportunity to make up for the lack of live TV coverage with an online stream evolved into the creation of an online community from around the globe who fell in love with the race – as did many in Australia. The #B12hr hashtag began trending and meme’s were created around some of the lighter moments.
Of course, this all led to the adoption of live TV, first on subscription TV via SPEED TV, then on SBS and in 2016, of course, by the Seven Network who showed the entire race live and free around the country on their various platforms.
2. Katsumasa Chyio.
NO DRIVER, international visitor or local hero, has had an instant impact on the Bathurst 12 Hour like the Japanese sensation that is Katsumasa Chyio.
From his love of a Selfie to his cheeky grin and the way he engages with fans, Aussie fans immediately adpoted him as a firm favorite. That was only enhanced when he was at home, behind the wheel of in his GT-R because it was even better: Fast, aggressive, daring and spectacular.
From the way he handled the devastation of 2014’s DNF to his steely desire to rebound from a crash in Qualifying for the 2015 race, and the thrilling victory that resulted from that, all helped build his Bathurst status. His charge at the end of the 2016 race, where he scythed van Gisbergen’s lead from double figures to less than two seconds at the line, almost elevated his following to cult-like.
The reaction from Aussie fans following his crash in Japan’s Super GT Championship – one saw him out of the seat while recovering from a back injury – was immediate and sincere.
Perhaps best of all is his personable nature. This writer – having only previously engaged with him at any great length when interviewing him in the post-race press conference in 2015 – bumped into him in the paddock early in the 2016 event.
Interrupting his own conversation with a NISMO mechanic to greet me, Chiyo-san grinned, reached out his hand to shake mine and said “Hello.. I hope to be seeing you for a talk after the race this year,”.
And so we did.
WHEN the official history of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 hour is written, 2014 will be remembered as the year where the race became more than the sum of it’s parts.
2014 had it all – the best field yet assembled, including Craig Lowndes in a competitive Ferrari 458 – live network TV and perfect conditions in which to stage the race.
And what a race. It was a brawl from the start and featured some incredible drives. Shane van Gisbergen taking on Salo and Schneider in an extraordinary five-minute stint five hours into the race. Greg Crick, in a damaged SLS AMG versus Mika Salo. The incredible 20-mintue closing stanza after a Safety Car that saw Lowndes repel attack after repeated attack from young German star Maxi Buhk’s SLS. The closest ever finish of the race. A record (since beaten) number of laps completed. A record number of lead changes.
A household name like Lowndes winning (with teammates John Bowe, Pete Edwards and Mika Salo) ensured the event reached beyond die-hard Motorsport fans and so many moments leading up to it ensured the event went bonkers online.
The fact that Maranello Motorsport – Allan Simonsen’s old team – won the race added an emotional context too.
Of all the great 12-hour races held to this date, 2014 stands out as the defining race where the around-the-clock enduro broke out and became, as John Hindhaugh so eloquently says, Australia’s Summer Classic.
By Richard Craill for bathurst12hour.com.au