THE INCREDIBLE array of cars and stars that make up the 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour grid are set to tackle the famous Mount Panorama circuit for practice tomorrow.
One of the deepest collections of combined racing talent from Australia and around the world will be on show as a more than 50-car grid takes to the track for the first time in the morning.
The world-class field includes 12 different brands and drivers from 17 countries.
Amongst the grid are 10 former winners of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, 4 Supercars Champions, 3 World Endurance Champions, 4 LeMans winners and the last two winners of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
A remarkable gathering of machinery on Mount Panorama’s pit straight on Thursday brought together cars from each of the four classes, while drivers from different racing disciplines joined forces.
Former Blancpain GT Series Champion Maximilian Buhk returns to the Mountain this year, after racing wheel to wheel with local legend Craig Lowndes for victory in the closing stages of the 2014 race.
The 25-year-old German finished third in the 2017 Blancpain GT Series and will this year race a Strakka Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 with Maximilian Gotz and 2016 12-hour winner, Alvaro Parente.
“I came here in 2014 and I thought ‘I’m Maxi Buhk from Germany I know how to drive a race car’ and I was pretty impressed by all the Aussie guys who know how to drive well,” he said.
“It was pretty tough for me to learn the track and get confident in the car. We were two laps down in the begging and then we fought back and in the last half hour I was battling with Craig Lowndes and I enjoyed that time a lot.
“I rate Craig really high, for me he is one of the best drivers I was racing against. I’m following him and other guys when I watch the V8 Supercars so I’m really impressed with them.”
Buhk expects the competition to be tougher than ever in his bid to go one better than his second place achieved in 2014.
“Surely this weekend we will try to go for the win but when you see all the lineups they are fifteen or twenty cars that have the potential to win, I think a top five would be nice but the win is what we want.”
For reigning FIA World Endurance Champion Earl Bamber, scoring Porsche an elusive victory at the iconic Mount Panorama circuit is at the top of his motor racing to-do list.
Despite being just 27, the young New Zealander is also a two-time winner of the LeMans 24 Hour classic and understands how important Bathurst is on the global stage.
For all their victories in top-level endurance racing, Porsche are yet to win a major endurance race on the Mountain.
“To be honest it took the colleagues in Germany a little while to understand why we have to come down here and we really have to win this race,” he said.
“For a while there, it was this ‘far away race’, but after coming here last year the Manthey Racing guys have seen what race it is and it’s really clear it’s something we need to tick the box.
“Hopefully we can keep coming here year after year with strong lineups and try and challenge for the win each year.”
Bamber – who will return to Bathurst this October to contest the Bathurst 1000 with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team – said a Bathurst victory was his next major career goal.
“After winning Le Mans twice, to get the Bathurst 12 Hour would be awesome – I managed to do it in Class B so it would be nice to do it in Class A,” he said.
“Probably one of the bigger challenges later in the year, for me that’s one of the top goals at the moment for myself to try and win that race.
“Now it’s becoming one of the highlights around the world: when you look at it there’s always the Daytona 24, Nürburgring 24 Hours, Le Mans and Spa 24 and those are the real big endurance races around the world that everybody wants – so it’s clear that we’re coming here with serious efforts to try and win.”
A busy Friday schedule includes Four practice sessions, commencing with opening practice at 8:25am.
Friday’s action will be covered live with Audio commentary provided by radiolemans.com – available on the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour website.
Saturday’s Pirelli Top-10 Shootout and the entire Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will be shown live and free on 7mate.