Bathurst 12 Hour: Huge crash rules #22 Audi out
Garth Tander walked away from a frightening crash in the early stages of the Bathurst 12 Hour, as the #999 GruppeM Mercedes leads at the three-hour mark.
The #2 Valvoline Audi made heavy contact with the wall on the outside of Skyline two and a half hours into the race to spark the third caution of an action-packed morning at Mount Panorama.
The crash started as he tried to go under teammate Dries Vanthoor in the #2 entry, who had run wide, on the way into Skyline, a shallow entry unsettling Tander's R8 enough to send him into the barrier.
"I'm okay," Tander said after returning to the garage.
"It just happened so quick up there, the cars are so fast across the top of the Mountain.
"Dries was quite wide, and I was probably only half a car width narrow. And it just completely changes the hump. The car has been nervous there all weekend anyway, and she just swapped ends on me."
The race restarted right on the three-hour mark, Felipe Fraga in the #999 GruppeM entry leading a Mercedes one-two over Yelmer Buurman in the #77 Craft-Bamboo car.
There was a clear top three in the opening laps of the race, Maximilian Buhk (#999), Ben Barnicoat (#60 59Racing McLaren) and Alex Imperatori (#18 KCMG Nissan) swiftly pulling away from polesitter Patrick Pilet (#911 Absolute Porsche).
Initially it was the #999 Mercedes that led the way, although the gap over the McLaren was never more than a handful of tenths.
On Lap 8 Barnicoat pulled off a daring move for the lead, firing down the inside of Buhk at the Chase. Once in front he could stretch the McLaren's legs, the gap widening to over 4s across the first stint.
Imperatori was the first of the lead group to stop, the Nissan hitting the lane just after the hour-mark.
At the 1h15m mark Barnicoat and Buhk did likewise, with the #911 Porsche taking over the lead after a more conservative opening stint.
Pilet managed to run three laps longer before making his stop, Dirk Werner going a lap further again in the #912 Absolute entry before Barnicoat reclaimed the lead.
With the stops done Buhk resumed his charge in second place, Maximilian Goetz moving into third in the #888 Triple Eight Mercedes as Imperatori slipped back to eighth.
The #911 returned to the track in fourth, Mathieu Jaminet taking over from Pilet for the second stint.
The first Safety Car came shortly before the 90-minute mark, Come Ledogar clouting the wall at the Dipper after unsettling his Garage 59 Aston Martin over the kerbs.
The race restarted after a little over 10 minutes, but the green running was short-lived. The Dipper claimed its second victim after a handful of laps, Julian Westwood crashing out in the #6 Wall Lamborghini.
At that point Barnicoat and Buhk both pitted and handed over to Alvaro Parente and Felipe Fraga respectively, leaving Goetz in the lead in the #888 Mercedes.
As the race neared the 2.5-hour mark Goetz made a second stop and handed over to Jamie Whincup, just moments before the Safety Car returned after Tander's frightening crash.
The flurry of stops shook up the running order, the #999 Mercedes moving back into the lead, while the #77 Mercedes, with Buurman at the wheel, the best of the cars to have stopped during the caution.
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