AN Aussie driving trio will headline the first entry from one of Asia’s top GT teams in the 2019 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
HubAuto Corsa, a leading force in the Blancpain GT Asia Championship, have entered a Ferrari 488 GT3 in the race and have called on regular drivers Nick Foster and Tim Slade to lead the driving squad.
They will be joined by Slade’s Brad Jones Racing Supercars teammate Nick Percat in a combination filled with both local knowledge and Ferrari experience.
Based in Taiwan, 2018 marked HubAuto’s first as a Ferrari customer outfit. The team won two races this year and finished fifth in the Blancpain GT Asia Championship team standings.
They will be the first Taiwanese team to contest the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Their entry marks the return to Bathurst for Ferrari, winners of the 2014 and 2017 races but absent from the grid in 2018.
“We are really inspired by our achievements this year – from Morris’ vision through to the guys and girls working tirelessly behind the scenes,” said HubAuto Operations Manager Phillip Di Fazio.
“We have a proven package having done a great job in 2018. Now our focus is winning the 12 Hour.”
Foster, who forged his reputation in Australia with a series of strong results in Formula Ford, F3 and in winning the Carrera Cup Championship, said the team was well established heading into their second year with the Ferrari.
“The team has come a really long way since it all came together at the start of the year,” Foster said.
“We’ve had really strong results from the get go and hit the ground running. We fell short in the last race to win the championship in our rookie year, but to still finish second overall was really positive.
“We then got to have a stab at the Suzuka 10 Hour and proved the calibre of our little Taiwanese organisation against the Intercontinental GT Challenge field.
“They underestimated us but we stuck the cars first and third on the grid and ran top three throughout. We didn’t get the result we wanted but we showed what we were capable of.
“To come back and have a go at that level is really exciting.”
Brad Jones Racing Supercars pilot Tim Slade has become a veteran of 12-Hour GT3 races, with 2019 to mark his sixth start in the Bathurst enduro.
“I’ve been racing in Asia with HubAuto and it’s exciting to continue that relationship,” Slade said.
“It’s very exciting to be in a full Pro car which I’ve not done at Bathurst before. The Ferrari obviously has a lot of potential there.
“HubAuto are a really good team and I’ve loved racing with them this year. I have to say thanks to (Nick) Foster for putting my name in the hat to drive with the team owner, Morris, in the Pro-Am car in the Blancpain series.
“They’re a good bunch of people, and they are lacking nothing in terms of equipment or ability to do the job.”
Percat’s last Bathurst 12-Hour start came in 2016, when the Lamborghini he was driving was hit by another car at Griffins bend – on the opening lap.
“I’m super excited, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years,” he said.
“After the last opportunity, which didn’t end that great, I said wouldn’t do it without an outright car with a proper team and good bit of kit to have a crack.
“I’m really pumped to get in Ferrari and driving with Sladey and Foster. I’m like the ring-in in that combination but I’m looking forward to getting up there, doing what I can and supporting the team.”
Slade has become one of the most experienced Supercars drivers in GT3 machinery, 2019 to mark his sixth start in the 12-Hour.
He finished second with Erebus Motorsport in 2012 and sixth the following year, and has started the last three races with the Objective Racing McLaren team.
Percat and Foster both made their respective 12-Hour debuts in 2016; Foster a last minute addition to the Team NZ Porsche squad in class B, while Percat was a lap-one non finisher after his Lamborghini – shared with Peter Rullo and Scott Andrews – was hit at Griffins Bend on the opening lap of the race.
After a strong career locally as regular winner in Australian Formula Ford, F3 and Carrera Cup, Foster has since established himself as a highly regarded GT ace in the Asian scene – pairing with HubAuto to score two wins and finish second in the Blancpain GT Asia drivers standings this year.
He also starred in the Suzuka 10 Hour Intercontinental GT Challenge race, qualifying the HubAuto Ferrari on pole position.
HubAuto will be the second Asian-based team to enter a Ferrari in Australia’s International Endurance race.
Singapore-based Clearwater Racing contested three 12-hour races, finishing third outright in 2012 and second a year later.
Ferrari has won the 12-Hour twice, in 2014 and 2017. Bathurst legend Craig Lowndes’ was part of both winning combinations, entered by Melbourne team Maranello Motorsport.