THE RAREST of rare Bathurst opportunities – three hours of dedicated and uninterrupted testing time – has given BMW’s three-car attack on the 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour a leg up, according to team boss and Bathurst champion Steven Richards.
After tackling the two-day Challenge Bathurst Lightning Sprint event last Thursday and Friday with one car each from BMW Team SRM and MARC Cars Australia, BMW returned to the circuit for a three-hour test session with three cars as part of a private booking of the circuit on Monday.
With his own Laser Plumbing & Elecritcal entry repaired following a crash in New Zealand, the SRM team fielded two cars and five of their six drivers – Timo Glock was unavailable – while MARC Cars also ran their M6GT3 with Paul Morris, Morgan Haber and Chaz Mostert behind the wheel.
“It was very good,” Richards told Bathurst12hour.com.au.
“We ran for the better part of Monday and it’s thanks to BMW for allowing us to do that. We got through huge amounts across three cars and it’s a huge thing to get that kind of track time.
“We did a lot of race runs, tyre evaluation and generated a lot of data to take home and look at before next February.”
Richards said the driving squad naturally got up to speed quickly, though came at it from different approaches.
“Marco (Wirtmann) knows the cars so well it was about getting in and adapting to the circuit,” he said.
“These European guys are so used to jumping into these cars and getting the job done that they just get in and adapt. His eyes were probably open wide the first few times but after that he got on with it.
“The other guys know the track really well and it was more about adapting to the cars and the way they produce speed.
“Frosty jumped in and looked good in all the areas he needed to be as you would expect. It was a great day and a great opportunity for the team to get this kind of experience.”
Winterbottom, who has remained focused on his Supercars career without dabbling in GT racing like some of his contemporaries, was enthusiastic about his first experience of the high downforce, high grip GT3 machinery.
“It’s weird, the car has a lot of grip but I’ve come to Bathurst 12 or 13 years in a row and all your brake markers, to get your head around that, is completely different. Same track – but you drive it completely differently,” he said in a Speedcafe.com video (see below).
“The car is awesome has heaps of grip. A little bit slower down the straight but across the top she’s pretty lit.
“(It) broadens your experience and working with different people, it was a good day.”
Mostert’s link with his 2014 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 winning co-driver Paul Morris made his experience even easier than Winterbottoms’ – familiarity in the crew running the Queensland-based M6 assisting his transition.
“It’s pretty cool, a lot of familiar faces from the Supercars program here and getting to work with Paul Morris and his crew around the car as well, so it’s a bit easier for me – I feel like I’m driving a Supercar but it’s actually a GT car,” Mostert explained.
“There’s a lot of help from BMW for our car and it’s pretty cool to see all these engineers come out to make sure the car is going at the optimum level it needs to and hopefully come January it’s a contender.”
PHOTO: Rhys Vandersyde