After several aborted starts, the famous McLaren brand will finally return to the Mountain in a competitive form during the 2014 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Having sold their existing Porsche, two-time Australian GT Championship winning VIP Petfoods Racing has entered their McLaren MP4-12C GT3 racer in the February 7-9 Event, naming Tony Quinn, Klark Quinn and experienced Scottish driver Andrew Kirkaldy as drivers.
The team finished third in a Porsche GT3 R last year but will give the McLaren brand their first competitive start in an endurance race at Mount Panorama should they take the 6:15am starter for the race this year.
Kirkaldy is a co-owner of the British-based open wheel and GT team CRS Racing – a team heavily involved in the initial development of the 12C GT3 racer.
The McLaren brand joins Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Nissan, Chevrolet, BMW, Ginetta and Lotus amongst the 35 GT cars entered this year.
The field includes world championship-winning GT drivers, Porsche Supercup champions and former Formula 1 stars - plus some of the current full-time stars from the V8 Supercars Championship like Craig Lowndes, Will Davison and Jason Bright.
Former Bathurst 12 Hour winners are present in the field; with no fewer than six entered in a quest for Bathurst success; Rod Salmon, Christopher Mies, Craig Baird, John Bowe and 2013 winners Bernd Schneider and Thomas Jaeger.
Add Steven Richards (M Motorsport Lamborghini) and Greg Murphy (Trofeo Motorsport Corvette) to the list and there are five former winners of the Bathurst 1000 classic in the field; including reigning winner Richards.
German GT star Jaeger is one of two drivers confirmed in the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG entered by HTP Motorsport, the team also naming French-Swiss driver Harold Primat - who raced with the Phoenix Audi squad last year.
Several teams are yet to nominate their final driving combinations, the notable spaces left amongst the GT3 outright field including the second BMW Z4M GT3 entered by former world champions, Vita4One racing.
Vita4One has nominated team owner and former FIA GT World Champion Michael Bartels alongside Dutchman Yelmer Buurman (a 26-year-old ‘veteran’ of GP2, GP2 Asia, SuperLeague Formula and the GT1 World Championship), 23-year-old German open wheel rising star Jens Klingmann and regular Vita4One driver, Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof amongst their squad, with two positions yet to fill.
Erebus Motorport this week confirmed that Maro Engel, Nico Bastian, Jack LeBrocq and Greg Crick to complete their pair of strong crews.
The star power isn’t just limited to the outright class, either, with several big names set to join the field in Class B for older specification GT3 cars.
A host of 2011-specification Porsche 911 GT3 Cars, fresh from three seasons in Australian Carrera Cup, are entered and feature name drivers like former American LeMans series ace Patrick Long, V8 Supercar drivers Alex Davison and Steve Owen (who will drive a Porsche GT3 Cup S) and Porsche Supercup frontrunners Ben Barker and Earl Bamber.
The three invitational classes are expected to be extremely competitive as more production-based machinery line up in classes D (Invitational 3001cc+) and F (Invitational up to 3000cc).
The much talked-about MARC Focus endurance racers entered in Class I are yet to confirm the bulk of their driving line-up, however team owner and project leader Ryan McLeod confirmed that Glenn Seton and Russell Ingall tested the cars in Queensland last week.
2014 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour