MOUNT PANORAMA has burst into life today, as the best teams from Australia and the world descend on the famous circuit ahead of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 hour this weekend.
A majority of teams are now on site at the famous circuit, spending today setting up pit garages and preparing cars ahead of pre-event scrutineering tomorrow – and first practice early on Friday morning.
Five-time DTM champion Bernd Schneider, who won the 2013 12-hour race, returns this year with HTP Motorsport – joining Mathias Lauda, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy in a Mercedes AMG GT3.
“I’m really, really happy to have the chance to drive here again, especially with our new GT,” Schneider said.
“I hope that we can have a lot of fun and enjoy the 12 Hour. It is a tough competition with that car and one of the best tracks in the world. It is just fantastic. Definitely it is one of the most challenging race circuits in the world, a bit like Nurburgring Nordscleife.
“I think every race driver, it is something special to be at Bathurst. As a professional racing driver you have to do it once in your life.”
Schneider said he was expecting strong competition this weekend – especially from within the AMG stable.
“I think we have a few cars that are strong in the field. Especially our team partners are really strong and have a good chance.
“Depending a little on the BoP (Balance of Performance) – at Bathurst you need a lot of power and I think the driver line up and car wise we are in good shape.
“The weather forecast is not straightforward with some thunderstorms for Sunday. At the moment we are not thinking about success, we are looking forward to driving on the track again and see how the car works.”
The field is a mixture of cars from Australia and abroad, with Switzerland-based team R-Motorsport making a return visit to the Mountain this year with a pair of Aston Martin entries.
Driver and team partner Florian Kamelger said he was ready for his team’s return to Bathurst.
“(We are) Excited for the Bathurst 12 Hour and Australia is a spot where we very much love to come back and it is our third time and first time with two cars,” he said.
“On one car we have the factory drivers of Aston Martin Racing – with Darren Turner on the car. Together with me and Marcus Langstrasse, a race driver out of Germany.
“We are very excited to be here – setting up and settling in, meeting all the people we know and the friends we made over the time. Everything is perfect.”
“Coming into Bathurst from the east, then you see the Mountain with the writing with Mt Panorama on it you are happy and looking forward to the weekend. It is absolutely special.”
The two teams that duelled for victory in the race last year will assume positions at the opposite ends of pit lane this weekend – Tekno Autosports parking their pair of McLaren 650S GT3s at pit exit, while Nissan Motorsport is located at the opposite end of the pit lane.
TEKNO has also confirmed the defending winners will sport No. 1 on their car this year.
Teams and drivers continue preparations tomorrow (Thursday, 2 February) ahead of official practice commencing on Friday morning.
PHOTOS: with thanks to Andrew Hall.