A record-breaking Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race has ended with AMG Mercedes Benz team Erebus Racing triumphing at Mount Panorama.
The soon-to-V8 Supercars team ‘international’ entry driven by Germans Alex Rollof, Thomas Jaeger and German Touring Car legend Bernd Schneider completed 268 laps (1665km) of Mount Panorama in a day that started off with record temperatures and ended in a torrential downpour.
The race was a traditionally dramatic affair and the margin of victory - just over one lap - belied just how competitive the race was.
The #36 Erebus entry led much of the last race and despite not being the fastest car across the weekend, outlasted, outplayed and outwitted their rivals in a commanding performance that gave Schneider his second consecutive major endurance victory of the year – having won the Dubai 24hr recently.
Today’s race was interrupted by a record 16-safety car periods, started in fine sunshine and ended in pouring rain.
“I have been racing for 40 years, it has been a long time since I have had to learn a new circuit,” Schneider said.
“It’s such a difficult place. On Friday when we had our first runs out there, we could not learn the circuit because of the traffic. You couldn't learn the braking points if you always have cars in front of you.
“When I jumped in the car for my first stint today I was really happy because the balance was very good and very consistent, I could push hard in the last 3 or 4 laps I did my quickest lap times. This is the key I guess.
" Once we had heavy rain I was not driving, it was more like surfing down the hill and I was really happy that I could get back in the pits.
“We have achieved something really special, especially since it’s the first time and such a difficult race.”
The second Erebus Mercedes was a contender for much of the final race, before a miscue by driver Lee Holdsworth saw them make contact with another car on a late-race restart, dropping him from second to an eventual sixth place finish with co-drivers Tim Slade and Peter Hackett.
Lead drivers Craig Baird and Irish ace Matt Griffin were superb however contact by team owner Mok Weng Sung with another car mid-race saw the team drop of the lead lap – a lap they would never get back.
Early in the race Griffin made up more than two minutes after an early safety car saw them ‘misplaced’ in the running order – costing them nearly a full lap that was skilfully recovered by the flying Irishman.
Baird replicated his teammate’s efforts later in the race, a Bathurst stint of the ages lifting the car from being out of podium contention to back in the hunt – and eventually in contention for their eventual second-place finish.
“The team were telling me that it was for third, not second, so I was going for it,” Baird said.
“Weng insures the car so I figured it was either going to be in the wall or on the podium and if I had a shunt it wouldn’t matter!”
With original third-driver Tony Quinn ruled out of competing after an earlier crash in his Australian GT-only entry, the team was forced to draft noted Porsche racer Kingsley – at the Mountain assisting clients with their own racing – into drive.
The pair held second within the last hour of the race however were hunted down and passed by the inspired Baird within the last half hour.
Defending event champions Phoenix Racing finished fourth, whilst reigning 12-hour winning driver Christopher Mies helped the Australian Network Clothing / Hallmarc Audi R8 LMS Ultra to a strong fifth position overall.
Defending Pedigree Class B (GT3) class champions Hunter Motor Sport defended their crown, Johnny Reid, Steven Richards and Drew Russell finishing an outstanding 9th outright in their Porsche GT3 Cup Car.
Dealing with the passing of his father on the Thursday of race week, Queensland driver Rob Thompson won his first 12-hour class in six attempts today, taking out Class C (Ryges GT4) with Liam Talbot and Romano Satori in his Lotus Exige.
Parkes (NSW) team GWS Motorsport triumphed in a war of attrition in the V8 Race Production (High Performance) class, taking the glory after many of their rivals fell by the wayside.
The result for Peter O’Donnell, Andre Heimgartner and Anthony Gilbertson came despite their car not officially qualifying for the race – the team having to apply for stewards dispensation to start after failing to qualify due to mechanical issues.
18th outright and first in Race Fuels class E (Production Performance) was the HSV Astra of Ivo Breukers, Morgan Haber and Damien Ward, whilst the factory entered Peugeot of Andrew Jones, David Wall and Bruce Jouanny finished first in Meguiar’s Invitational (1).
The Seat Leon Supacopa of NZ team Motorsport Services won class I2, whilst Mal Rose achieved a dream today by winning I3 in his ex-V8 Supercar Holden.
Rose, Aaron Tebb and Adam Wallis finished an amazing 12th outright in the first car that Jamie Whincup raced at Bathurst.
Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour