BMW Team Beats Panorama drama to win Bathurst 12 Hour THERE was rain, fog and the even the ultimate unpredictability of a large fallen tree, but the Eastern Creek International Karts BMW 335i of Gary Holt, Paul Morris and John Bowe survived...
BMW Team Beats Panorama drama to win Bathurst 12 Hour
THERE was rain, fog and the even the ultimate unpredictability of a large fallen tree, but the Eastern Creek International Karts BMW 335i of Gary Holt, Paul Morris and John Bowe survived every challenge Mount Panorama could produce to win the Armo All Bathurst 12 Hour at Mount Panorama today.
Morris was at the wheel for the final stint in the same car in which he and Holt also won the 2007 race.
The three drivers covered 202 laps, 1254.4 kilometres, to complete Australia's longest motor race, staged for showroom-standard popular cars with only safety-related modifications.
The winning margin was 3.3 seconds, but it had been half a minute until just 11 minutes before the finish, when the Bathurst Fat Lady sang out for the safety car while a stranded Holden was removed from the track.
The Supercar Club Lamborghini Gallardo stayed at the head of the field until just before the last corner, when the cars were released to race for the line.
But there was no time for David Wall to force his Easts Holiday Parks Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 from second to pass Morris.
Asked at the post-race media conference how the final sprint might have unfolded if there was no safety car, Morris joked: "There might have a Wall in the wall."
Overcoming turbocharger problems in his Pro-Duct team Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, Bathurst veteran Glen Seton finished third outright. He shared with Neil Crompton and Mark King.
The sky was heavily overcast and the track wet or damp almost all day and while Mount Panorama's infamous concrete perimeters didn't claim a Wall and they did meet several cars in minor incidents.
But nothing prepared the field of 43 starters for the shock of a fallen tree across the track early in the seventh hour. It was one of the most extraordinary incidents in Mount Panorama history.
The large tree toppled right across the track near the start of Conrod Straight, missing any competitors but bringing all to a stop on top of the mountain for 40 minutes while emergency workers cleared away the mess.
The event attracted a total paying attendance of 17,714 over three rain-affected days.
The all-wheel drive Mitsubishis set the pace from the 6.30 am start and few may have thought the rear-drive Eastern Creek BMW ultimately would top the podium.
But the team was solidly in the lead after an outstanding afternoon stint by Bowe, during which he opened the gap to round two minutes 40 seconds effectively a full lap in the wet conditions.
When he stepped out of the car just after lap 155 to the applause of his pit crew Morris had enough tyres and fuel to allow an uninterrupted run to the finish.
Bowe said: "It was an interesting day. I've been coming here for 25 years I suppose and I've never seen a tree fall down before and the chainsaws come out.
"I don't think I've ever been through so many things (such as) races stopped. They say you can turn the car off; there were guys getting out, going to the toilet, getting back in again. That's pretty unusual."
Several of the front-running Mitsubishis were among 15 non-finishers.
The VIP Petfoods Evo 9 quit on lap 15 after a crash caused by brake problems, Bargwanna/Glenney/Pearson were out on lap 83 and Crimp/Luff/Kostera on lap 107.
The most spectacular retirement came on lap 130, after eight hours, when a Subaru driven by rally champion Dean Herridge slammed into the back of the Lancer of actor Eric Bana, Tim Leahy and Peter Hill.
Neither Herridge nor Hill, who was driving the Mitsubishi, was injured.
Heartbreak hit the Pedigree Lancer Evo 10 2008/2009 winners Damien White and Rod Salmon and their 2010 driver Inky Tulloch.
A cracked exhaust pipe heated the cabin floor, risking brake failure and burning White's feet and he pulled into the pit garage for good on lap 155.
"I'm a bit lost for words, to be honest. We were positioned where we wanted to be (for the final run)," White said of his dashed hopes for a hat-track.
Class competitors also had their triumphs and dramas.
Nathan Pretty, Cameron McConville and Andrew Jones brought their Holden Commodore R8 station wagon to a highly impressive fourth outright and second in Class B.
Marcus Zukanovic, Alan Simonsen and Jason Bright battled various problems throughout the day in their untested new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, but claimed the invitational Class I with just 121 laps completed.
But the most emotional finish belonged to the 1966 Bathurst 1000 winner Bob Holden.
He was given the honour of completing today's final stint in his Class E Bezcorp Security team Toyota Yaris - and, at age 77, probably his Bathurst driving career.
-source: bathurst 12h