Bathurst 12-winning Mercedes crew to defend victory as Pro entries revealed
Jules Gounon, Luca Stolz and Kenny Habul will defend their Bathurst 12 Hour victory with SunEnergy1's Mercedes next month as the German manufacturer launches its Intercontinental GT Challenge assault.
The Australian enduro on 3-5 February has attracted a grid of 28 cars, with full Pro crews once again eligible after the 12 Hour was switched to a Pro-Am event for its first running since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022.
The field is headlined by the return of the SunEnergy1 squad, which prevailed at the 12 Hour with Gounon, Stolz, Habul and Martin Konrad last season, and went on to secure the Pro-Am title with Bathust local Habul and Konrad.
French ace Gounon, who also won last year's Spa 24 Hours and eventually finished runner-up in the IGTC's Pro division to fellow Mercedes ace Dani Juncadella, is targeting a record-breaking third event win after he triumphed in the 2020 edition for Bentley with Maxime Soulet and Jordan Pepper.
Gounon will link up with the team after racing against SunEnergy1's GTD class entry - to which Stolz was added at late notice following the withdrawal of IndyCar champion Will Power - at this weekend's Daytona 24 Hours for the WeatherTech Racing GTD Pro squad.
After its Bathurst podium clean sweep in 2022, Mercedes is also fielding two further full Pro entries nominated to score points towards the five-round IGTC series that counts the Kyalami 9 Hour (23-25 February), Spa 24 Hours (1-2 July), Indianapolis 8 Hour (5-7 October) and Gulf 12 Hour (8-10 December).
Last year's Bathurst runner-up Craft-Bamboo Racing has again entered Juncadella, who joined Gounon and Raffaele Marciello in winning last year's Spa 24 and GT World Challenge Endurance Cup, together with DTM runner-up Lucas Auer and 2015 Spa 24 winner Nicky Catsburg.
GruppeM will field Marciello and its 2022 DTM drivers Maro Engel and Mikael Grenier.
#98 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: Maro Engel, Maximilian Götz, Lucas Auer
Photo by: SRO
Mercedes is the most popular car in the GT3 field, with nine examples of its AMG-GT3 entered.
Two come from Supercars powerhouse Triple Eight, with 2021 DTM champion Maximilian Gotz joining its Supercars regulars Shane van Gisbergen and Broc Feeney in its Pro car, while its newly-signed endurance extra Richie Stanaway will pair up with team boss Jamie Whincup and Malaysian Prince Jefri Ibrahim in a second machine in the Pro-Am division.
Supercars ace David Reynolds will race a Pro-Am Volante Rosso Motorsport car that is also nominated by AMG for IGTC points, joining Tony Bates and Jordan Love, while two-time 12 Hour winner Craig Lowndes features on the driving strength of Scott Taylor Motorsport's Pro-Am entry.
Belgian squad Team WRT will make its first outing as an official BMW works team at Bathurst, after winning the Dubai 24 Hours on its debut with the M4 earlier this month, with a two-car line-up that includes newly-appointed factory driver Valentino Rossi.
The MotoGP legend will share the #46 entry with season-long GTWCE Endurance team-mates Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin, with DTM champion Sheldon van der Linde joining 2018 12 Hour winner Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weets in the #32 car.
Porsche has a single Pro entry operated jointly by Manthey Racing and EMA for 2019 12 Hour winner Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet and DTM race-winner Thomas Preining, while Audi's lone Pro entry run by Melbourne Performance Centre will be driven by factory drivers Christopher Haase, Mattia Druidi and Patric Neiderhauser.
Two-time Bathurst winner Christopher Mies will share one of MPC's three other machines, entered in Pro-Am, with DTM race winner Ricardo Feller and Yasser Shahin.
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