Green Light For 24-Hour Race At Mount Panorama

INTERNATIONAL GT sports and touring cars will race around the clock at Bathurst in Australia's first major 24-hour motor race in November.

Organiser PROCAR Australia announced the race today after successful negotiations for an in-principle agreement with the Bathurst City Council, which owns the Mount Panorama circuit.

PROCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Ross Palmer said the race would start at 4 pm on Saturday 23 November with a field of up to 83 cars, believed to be the biggest ever assembled in Australia.

"The deal has been done and we're on our way to one of the most exciting motorsport events in the world," Mr Palmer said during the announcement at the Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide.

"A huge job is ahead of us over the coming months, but we are prepared, we are realistic and we have a committed partner in the Bathurst City Council."

The Bathurst 24-hour would be an immense challenge to teams, but the prestige of winning it would be priceless, Mr Palmer said.

"There are only a handful of major 24-hour races around the world - Le Mans, Daytona, Nurburgring and Spa. Australia has never seen a race like this.

"Many of the world's top drivers have been hoping for years for an opportunity to race at Bathurst and we predict a strong international entry list.

"We have already had signfiicant international enquiries, including teams from the UK, Europe and the United States.

"They can expect to confront some formidable Australian driving talent who I'm sure will find the challenge irrestible. The race will require around 300 drivers and nobody knows Bathurst better than our own."

Mr Palmer said there were a number of options for television coverage, including worldwide distribution of live or edited highlights.

He praised the efforts of the council in helping to ensure the 24-hour race was approved.

"The Mayor Ian Macintosh and the council and its officers have been outstandingly helpful since we began discussions with them last year," he said.

"They have been quick to see the potential benefits of a race with more than 80 teams, let alone the spectators, and hopefully the event will strengthen the council's claims on the Federal and State governments for money to upgrade the facilities at Mount Panorama."

The event will be managed by PROCAR's Special Events Manager Brian Lawrence, a well-known and widely experienced New Zealand motorsport identity who now lives in Queensland.

Eiligibility rules will allow entry of a wide variety of cars, from the 300 kmh Porsche GT3R, Ferrari 360 Michelotto and Lamborghini GTR to Australian family sedans.

Categories will include Australian Nations Cup and GTP, which are organised by PROCAR, plus international FIA N-GT sports cars and Super Production touring cars from Europe, the United States, Japan and New Zealand.

Mr Palmer said PROCAR would attend an FIA N-GT and European Super Production race meeting at Silverstone, England, in May and the Nurburgring 24-hour in Germany in June to seek entries for Bathurst.

The Nurburgring 24-hour, in which Mr Palmer is one of several Australians to have competed as a driver, is a model for the Australian race.

To be run this year on 1-2 June, it attracts more than 200 starters from around the world in everything from Le Mans-type GT sports cars to small hatchbacks.

Brisbane-based PROCAR Australia is organiser of the PROCAR Champ Series events, including the annual Sandown 500-kilometre race in Melbourne, which feature the Nations Cup, GT Performance, GT Production Car and V8 BRute Muster championships and the Australian Formula 3 Championship.

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