MUSCLE CAR AND RALLY STAR FIRST ENTRANT FOR ARMOR ALL BATHURST 12 HOUR
FOUR-TIME Australian Rally Champion Neal Bates and the iconic Chevrolet Corvette will combine to tackle the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour on February 4-6 next year.
Victorian Australian GT Championship regular Paul Freestone was today announced as the first to officially enter, confirming a powerful car and powerful driving squad in the process.
Freestone, himself a veteran of Production / GT-style endurance racing, will combine with Bates and the experienced Hayden Pullen in a formidable team.
Bates is no stranger to the mountain whilst Pullen, who is Freestone's lead mechanic on the Corvette team, has experience in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series and ensures that Freestone has a well-balanced driver line up.
"We are not going there to make up the numbers," Paul Freestone said.
"Neal and I go way back, and I asked him a long time ago if he would drive with us in the Corvette should we be able to run the car in an event like this.
"Hayden is the senior mechanic on the car so putting him in the car is a thank you for the hard work he puts in.
"But he is also very experienced. He knows the car inside out and will be very competitive. I think it's a great driver line-up."
The powerful 7000cc Corvette will be entered in Class C (for cars in Australian GT - GT Production class) where it could potentially tackle vehicles like the R35 Nissan GT-R, Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Porsche's 996 GT3.
Freestone has continually developed the car over several years of competition in Australian GT and remains in contention for the GT Production title within this year's championship, currently placed second behind class leader Tony Alford's Nissan.
Freestone believes the iconic American muscle car is an ideal weapon for the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour.
"It's a long race and our car can do consistent 2m19s or 2m20s laps all day. It's a great package and I'm surprised more people haven't got into the cars because they are perfect for this kind of event.
"We can run the car reliably at 5,500 RPM all day and not give away anything in performance. Then, if we are in with a shot within sight of the flag and need to press on we can start taking it to 6,500 RPM without any problems.
"The Corvette is under-stressed and easy to drive quickly for a long time, so it's an ideal package."
Freestone will get some early testing in ahead of the Armor All 12 Hour by contesting the forthcoming fifth round of the Vodka O Australian GT Championship next week at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
"I think a lot of people will be watching us next weekend to see how the car will go at the 12 Hour," he said.
"We are in contention for the (GT Production) championship but we will also be using it as a test for February. It's an ideal opportunity to prepare for the race."
Further entries are expected to flow within the next week as the clock counts down to the 2011 Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour - with 130 days to go until the cars hit the circuit for the first time.
The 2011 Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour is set to be the best yet and will include a broader vehicle eligibility list.
Vehicles from the Australian GT Championship will join with vehicles from the Australian Production Car Championship totalling 31 manufacturers eligible to compete in the around-the-clock Enduro at Mount Panorama on 4 to 6 February 2011.