TWENTY-SIX years ago the world descended on Mount Panorama, Bathurst for the first time, when the famous circuit hosted Australia’s first – and to this point only – World Touring Car Championship round, in October 1987.
Back then drivers from 11 nationalities took part, at that stage the most in any race in the history of Bathurst.
Despite the post-race politics, protests and dramatics that occurred, the event showed the world that Bathurst was firmly on the international racing landscape.
In 2013 the world returns to Bathurst with the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour – only this time in more numbers than ever before.
Drivers from 17 nationalities are listed within a field of 50 that will take the green flag at 7:00am on Sunday, February 10. Combined, they hail from six of the world’s seven continents with only Antarctica – not well known for its motor racing culture – not represented.
As was the case in 1987, New Zealanders make up the largest portion of international visitors, though large numbers from the United Kingdom, Scandinavia (Denmark, Finland and Sweden), Germany, Belgium and France are well represented.
International teams hail from New Zealand, Italy, Singapore, the United States, Germany, England, Belgium, Switzerland and France.
A record 20 brands will be featured when the on-track action commences, with the largest representation coming from three of the best-recognised endurance racing brands in the world.
Eight Porsche’s, Seven Audi R8’s and six BMWs are entered and have a clear numerical advantage over their rivals. The next most numerous brands – Ferrari, Lotus and Spanish brand SEAT – each have three entries.
Whilst Peugeot’s two-car team is the only official ‘works’ outfit, Mercedes-Benz / AMG, Porsche, BMW and Audi are all providing some form of manufacturer support to their respective entries.
Race week in Bathurst commences with the first vehicles arriving at the circuit today via Gibson Freight.
Most cars are already in the country, the Australian racing debut of the BMW Z4M GT3 set to be a popular one with the Team Engstler BMW attracting hundreds of spectators across the weekend at Trivet Motors BMW in Sydney, where the car was on display.
The Engstler entry is sponsored by Liqui-Moly, the event sponsor heavily promoting the vehicle’s appearance in Australia and giving away free event tickets to Sydney fans in the process.
Liqui-Moly officials reported a strong turnout of race fans keen to see the unique German entry.
Meanwhile, visiting drivers and teams have also begun to arrive in Australia ahead of the race this weekend.
Globe-trotting Englishman James Winslow splits his time between Australia, England and the United States and will join Peter Conroy and World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff in an Audi R8LMS this weekend.
Winslow is the reigning Australian Formula 3 champion and won the inaugural Formula 3 round – held at the Bathurst Motor Festival last year. He says the 12 Hour is rapidly gaining an international reputation.
“It’s a race that is talked about around the world now,” Said Winslow – who has one Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour start to his credit, having raced a Subaru in 2009.
“I get around to a lot of places and it’s exciting to see how the race has grown and the kind of driver and team that it’s now attracting. Bathurst is an iconic place and an amazing circuit and this is the kind of event that is going to showcase how great it is to the world – I can’t wait to get on track.”
Media activities commence Wednesday with on-track action commencing early Friday morning with the first of three practice sessions.
The long-range weather forecasts indicate a warm weekend with near perfect conditions for racing.
The 2013 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will be streamed live on the internet to a global audience, this year featuring the experienced Radio LeMans team as well. Three-hours of highlights are set to appear on SBS the following Sunday.