BMW’s return to the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour as an outright contender is set to build on what is already a remarkable history of success in Australia’s around-the-clock enduro.
The German marque has two outright victories in the race, trailing only Mazda (with three) and equal to Audi and Mitsubishi on the all-time winners list.
But the brand also has a multitude of class victories to it’s credit and, when you look broader, is one of only two brands to ever win both the 12-Hour and the iconic Bathurst 1000.
Victories in the 2007 and 2010 12-hour races sit nicely on a CV that also includes outright success in the 1997 Bathurst 1000 – Geoff and David Brabham combining to win the two-litre race that October in dramatic fashion.
Only Nissan – who won the 1991 & 1992 Bathurst 1000 races – has achieved the same remarkable feat.
BMW’s return to Bathurst actually comes 20 years on from their maiden victory on the Mountain and 10 years after their first 12-hour success – but the historic links continue back even further thanks mainly to the the Richards family.
While Steven Richards (himself a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner) will head the pair of BMW team SRM entries next year, his legendary father Jim was one of the first to truly establish BMW as a regular contender in Bathurst enduro races.
After winning Bathurst three-times with Peter Brock in the late 1970s, Richards’ moved to the Frank Gardner-led JPS BMW team in the early 1980s and raced at the Mountain in Group C and Group A-specification 635 CSi entries, and later the BMW M3. Though Bathurst success didn’t come readily, he did twice win the Australian Touring Car Championship for the brand before switching to Nissan.
However perhaps the most remarkable example of BMW’s Mountain mastery comes in the form of a humble production-based BMW 335i Turbo.
The venerable white and blue coupe’ has now started 10 12-Hour races at Bathurst – completing 2,599 laps and 16,147 kilometers of racing in the process.
In ten starts, the BMW 335i has won the race twice outright (when it was a production car event) and has backed up with four class victories. In all, the various driving crews have stood on the podium as a place-getter in nine of the ten contested 12 Hours.
The car won in 2007 with owner Garry Holt joined by Craig Baird and Paul Morris, and won again in 2010 with Holt joined that year by Morris and John Bowe. It finished third outright in 2008 and later went on to record a class D victory in 2013 once the race had become a GT event.
Remarkably, 2016 marked the first time that the car actually failed to finish the race however the car continues to be owned by Central-West businessman Peter O’Donnell and is still raced in Production Car events around Australia.
Two of the 335i vehicles were actually built for the 12-hour and the second vehicle – still owned by Barry Morcom – continues to achieve success.
In the hands of Barry’s son Nathan and Supercars ace Chaz Mostert, the 335i won the inaugural Bathurst 6 Hour held across Easter this year – defeating plenty of much younger cars in the process.
Watching a new chapter of BMWs in outright contention at Bathurst is set to be another remarkable story line around the 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
WHAT A RECORD: GWS PERSONNEL BMW 335i BATHURST RESULTS
2007 – Craig Baird, Garry Holt, Paul Morris – 1st Outright 257 laps, 1st Class A
2008 – Craig Baird, Garry Holt, Paul Morris – 3rd Outright 252 laps, 1st Class B
2009 – Craig Baird, Ric Shaw, Garry Holt – 8th Outright 228 laps, 3rd Class A
2010 – John Bowe, Paul Morris, Garry Holt – 1st Outright 202 laps, 1st Class B
2011 – Christian D’Agostin, Peter O’Donnell, Matt Hansen – 10th Outright 252 laps, 2nd Class D
2012 – Christian D’Agostin, Peter O’Donnell, Grant Duffy – 13th Outright 205 laps, 3rd Class D
2013 – Peter O’Donnell, Andre Heimgartner, Anthony Gilbertson – 29th Outright 183 laps, 1st Class D
2014 – Peter O’Donnell, Allan Shephard, Kean Booker, Matt Chahda – 12th Outright 238 laps, 2nd Class D
2015 – Ric Shaw, Jake Williams, Matt Chahda, Steve Devjak – 28th Outright 239 laps, 2nd Class D
2016 – Jake Williams, Will Cauchi, David Cox, Ric Shaw – DNF
WORDS: Richard Craill & Garry O’Brien.