This year's Bathurst 12 Hours is looking like a real scorcher.
Audi’s Rod Salmon firmly believes that the magic 2-minute mark at Bathurst could be broken this weekend, and he’s not convinced his Melbourne Performance Centre supported team won’t be the team to do it...
“In all our pre-event scheduling and planning it has been a topic of conversation,” the two-time Bathurst 12-Hour winner explained. “It might mean the planets have to align, but with the right car, the right driver and the right circuit conditions, it’s by no means out of the question.”
Whilst a re-adjustment of the solar system seems unlikely, Salmon’s argument does have some level of merit. His 2012 Audi R8 LMS ultra is the car that won the 2012 Bathurst 12-Hour and in pre-2013 spec, is faster in a straight line than the newer model R8 by virtue of the newer car’s increased aero package adopted after the 2013 12-Hour.
He also has two of the fastest, most experienced drivers at Mount Panorama on his dance-card; Warren Luff and former Bathurst 1000 winner, Jason Bright.
“This year we also have four drivers, which takes a bit of pressure off me with the two faster guys, and Liam Talbot who I drove with late last year will join me again. With the victory we had in the first race at Highlands in New Zealand at the end of the 2013 Australian GT season and the two other podiums we achieved that weekend, it’s clear that despite just 18 months in the sport, that he has a great natural ability too.”
He may be a big part of the MPC/Audi’s weapons arsenal, but Warren Luff is under no illusions about the job ahead at Bathurst this year.
“Rod’s right, we’re right in the mix of teams that have the potential to reach the podium, but there’s a lot of elements that go into being there at the end of the race,” he admitted.
“Take a look at this year’s entry too, and it’s super-impressive. Names like Rast, Vanthoor and Winkelhock – those guys are the ‘real deal’ in these GT3 cars, the best of the best. They race in events like this 15-20 times a year, so I’d expect they’ll be up to speed within a handful of laps, it’s what they do.
“Does that phase me.. not at all. It’s a 12-Hour race, so what you do in qualifying, how quick your star drivers are, how much experience you have, sometimes that doesn’t amount to much because of the large range of factors that come into play at Bathurst. It will all come down to the best team, with the best package who are able to cope best with what’s thrown at us over 12 hours on Sunday.”
Whilst the car hasn’t changed much since 2013, and the driver lineup is similar, the big difference in performance over last year will come down to the performance of the circuit itself.
“The team also discovered at Phillip Island late last year they had an advantage with the Pirelli tyre. Track conditions there were quite warm, and the Pirelli again performed brilliantly against all other brands, so if the surface is similar, we may also enjoy that advantage over some of our rivals.
“Look, at this stage the track surface is a complete unknown, and with the weather predicted to be well above 30 degrees over the weekend, it may not be the perfect conditions for the tyres or the circuit to break that mark, but I’m sure if we’re close, someone will go after it..”
“As for what the track will be like and how quick we’ll be, we can speculate about that for hours, at the end of the day we’ll know on Friday what difference the new surface will make,” Luff added. “Last time they re-sealed it I think was about 2003, which was the year that Greg Murphy did that record-breaking lap, so it’s possible.”