THE COUNTDOWN is on to the 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour, with the 100 day milestone now less than 24 hours away.
To celebrate that century countdown commencing, we’ve gone through the history books to sort 10 of the biggest moments, stories, events or people to have helped build the race to the enviable position it is in now – one of the ‘must win’ endurance races on the global racing calendar.
Today – with 101 days to go – we’re showcasing the first five key moments and tomorrow we’ll list what we think are the five biggest things to define the race.
Do you agree? Disagree? Join the conversation on our social media pages by using the hashtag #B12hr!
10. Setting the scene – the tense all-Audi fight of 2011.
THERE were a lot of knockers around when the Bathurst 12 Hour announced mid way through 2010 that GT3 machinery would be eligible for the race in 2011 – but thanks to Audi we didn’t need to worry.
The German marque brought their best team, Joest Racing, and a pair of superbly presented Audi R8 LMSs who put on a great show at the front of the field. In a day-long game of cat and mouse between the pair, the race came down to the final pit stop when the ‘German’ entry leapfrogged the Aussies and ultimately sailed to victory. It might have looked easy, but the tension that crackled from the far end of pit lane, where the Audi’s were based, indicated there was more to the fight than just an inter-team battle. It was Australia versus the world.
And it helped establish a footprint for the race that would grow every year since.
9. Explosion: 2013.
IF 2011 set the tone, 2013 was the first year that the race truly burst into the consciousness of the Australian motor sport public.
The grid was much, much bigger than in previous years but perhaps more importantly it was also deeper with a host of competitive cars and big-name stars filling the Bathurst grid. Then there was a fantastic race that saw Mercedes-Benz take the win and German superstar Bernd Schneider build his legendary status by adding the 12-hour crown to his incredible resume’.
As if that wasn’t enough, the enormous downpour and apocalyptic-style conditions in the final two hours saw immense car control on display from all concerned – including Shane van Gisbergen passing people around the outside, at Reid Park, at 40km/hr, on slicks!
8. Introducing the Internationals
MATT Griffin. Maro Engel. Laurens Vanthoor. Christoper Mies. Maxi Buhk. All international drivers who, prior to contesting the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, would have been lucky to be known by more than a handful of the hardest of hardcore racing fans in Australia.
The opening up of Bathurst to the world, however, enabled fans to see these incredible talents first hand. Matt Griffin’s heroic charge in 2013, Maro Engel’s emotional pole lap the same year, Vanthoor ragging the BOP-restricted R8 across the top in February this year, Mies’ becoming the race’s first double-winner in the GT era and Buhk pressing the legend that is Lowndes for victory in 2014 are all highlights that now resonate with Aussie fans and showcased the remarkable talents of these great drivers.
7. Allan Simonsen
ALLAN never won the Bathurst 12 Hour, but his impact continues to be felt by everyone who assembles at Mount Panorama every February.
His raw speed was never questioned and at an international level he was one of the race’s most vocal supporters. But perhaps the most memorable moments were in the pre-dawn hour at the start of the 2012 race – when after working his way to the front on the fourth lap, the Dane went on a 24-lap spree at the front of the field and ultimatley re-set the lap record several times in a memorable stint.
Such was his impact that the Allan Simonsen Pole Award (‘The Al’ – he was never one for formalities!) is now one of the race’s most coveted awards.
6. Audi and Nissan
MANY brands have embraced all that the Bathurst 12 Hour has to offer, both from a marketing and branding standpoint and also from a purely competitive one – but Audi and Nissan have perhaps engaged with the race the most. We knew Audi were serious about winning the race when we arrived in 2011 and promptly found an Audi R8 plastered to the iconic bridge at Brock’s Skyline. ‘Oh,’ we said. ‘They’re serious about this thing..’.
It is reasonable to assume that the current success of Audi Customer Sport Racing Australia – and their six-car fleet of current R8’s – saw it’s genesis that year on the Mountain.
Nissan, of course, are part of the folklore of the race. From their ultimately shortened debut in 2014 to the heroic victory a year later and even the charge from behind this year, they have literally written several chapters of their own into the race’s history books. Their two car attack in 2017 will be very, very interesting indeed..
Since then Bentley, Ferrari and a host of other top brands have engaged with the race year on year – with BMW coming in 2017.
Check out www.bathurst12hour.com.au tomorrow for the conclusion!
By Richard Craill for bathurst12hour.com.au