Bathurst 24 international drivers update

International drivers arrive to start countdown to first Bathurst Enduro The arrival of international cars and drivers has begun the final countdown to one of the most challenging motorsport events yet staged in Australia, next weekend's...

International drivers arrive to start countdown to first Bathurst Enduro

The arrival of international cars and drivers has begun the final countdown to one of the most challenging motorsport events yet staged in Australia, next weekend's inaugural Bathurst 24-Hour.

More than 30 drivers from Britain, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, the United States, Indonesia and Canada are listed to compete in the race, which starts at 4 pm next Saturday.

Early arrivals over the weekend included Atlanta-based Australian David Brabham, one of the world's top sports car drivers, who will race a Cirtek Motorsport Porsche GT3 RS with co-drivers Manuel Juarez, from Austria, and Australians Allan Grice and Darren Palmer.

Also flying in was British team owner and driver Martin Short, who will compete in a spectacular US-built Mosler MT900R coupe.

The Mosler, three Porsches and five BMWs comprise the international contingent that will take on not only the challenging Mount Panorama circuit, but also many of Australia's best sports car and touring car teams, including the new factory-backed 7.0-litre Holden Monaro.

All the competitors are due at Bathurst by Wednesday and will complete two days of mechanical scrutineering, briefings and final preparations before practice and qualifying on Friday.

Two sessions ending at 9.45 pm will give the teams their first experience of driving at night on the 6.2 kilometre circuit, which will be partially flood-lit.

For most of the internationals, it also will be their first opportunity to try the track itself.

Many are wondering if their experience of building and racing cars for the tough international endurance events will be sufficient to beat Australian teams that have done thousands of laps of Mount Panorama.

Front-running cars are expected to cover around 3500 kms, three-and-a-half times the distance of the traditional Bathurst 1000 touring car race.

John Cowley, Deputy Executive Chairman of organiser PROCAR Australia, said staging the inaugural Bathurst 24-Hour would be an important milestone in Australian motorsport.

"It' has all the ingredients for a classic event - a strong entry list with exotic cars from Australia and abroad, high-profile drivers and the unprecedented challenge of racing around the clock on world-famous Mount Panorama," he said.

"PROCAR is proud to be staging the 24-Hour, in partnership with the Bathurst City Council, and we look forward to the experience from next weekend contributing to even bigger and better events in future years."

Not only will Bathurst mark the first 24-hour race in Australia in almost 40 years.

With an international 24-hour race now on its calendar for the foreseeable future, Australia also can claim a variety of international motorsport events unmatched by any other country - a Formula 1 grand prix, a CART Champ Car round, a World Rally Championship round, rounds of the Moto GP and Superbike world championships, the off-road Australian Safari, a world-famous touring car race in the Bathurst 1000 and the classic Targa Tasmania rally.

Australia's national Seven Network will return to the mountain to provide live telecasts of the opening and closing stages of the Bathurst 24-Hour, plus updates in between.

Fox Sports 2 will cover the main support races on Saturday, the GTP 2-Hour Showroom Showdown for production touring cars and V8 BRute sprints.

The city of Bathurst, 210 kms west of Sydney, is preparing to welcome the event with several off-track highlights.

These will include a meet-the-drivers forum with the public on Wednesday night, an autograph session on Thursday, ute muster at the track on Saturday and an official after-party to congratulate the winning crews on Sunday night.

SCHUMACHER'S MAN TO ENGINEER FERRARI TEAM

Four top Australian drivers will be helped by one of Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 engineers in their bid to win the inaugural Bathurst 24-Hour.

Claudio Bersini, from Bologna, has been seconded from the Ferrari Formula 1 team to engineer the Ferrari 360GT coupe that will be driven for glamor team PHR Scuderia by John Bowe, Brad Jones, John Teulan and Paul Morris.

Bowe drove the Ferrari in this year's Australian Nations Cup Championship, but it will be upgraded to the faster FIA N-GT international specifications for Bathurst.

While Bersini will be dedicated to getting maximum speed from the V8-engined Ferrari, PHR Scuderia will hedge its bets by running a Porsche for the first time.

The GT3 RS, also conforming to FIA N-GT regulations, will be driven by seven-time Bathurst winner Jim Richards, with Maher Algadri from Indonesia, Matt Weiland and a fourth, yet unannounced, driver.

PHR Scuderia team manager Paul Cruickshank has calculated his cars will complete between 570 and 600 laps over the 24-hours.

While many observers speculate on whether this will be the event where the 300 kmh mark is reached on Conrod Straight, Cruickshank expects the Ferrari will top out at only 275 kmh and the Porsche 285 kmh in their conservative endurance specifications.

Barring incidents, the PHR cars are expected to pit every two hours to change drivers and refuel.

Each car will consume around 1800 litre of fuel, with the Ferrari's special Elf mix costing $5 per litre.

There are no official limits on tyres and the PHR cars may use up to 12 sets. Three stops for brake pads and one stop for brake rotors are expected.

Cruickshank estimates a typical front-running lap time during the race will be around 2 minutes 22 seconds, although he predicts the Monaro of Garth Tander, Steven Richards and Nathan Pretty will be able to lap several seconds faster.

NEW MASERATI RACER TO FLY IN FOR AUST. PREVIEW

Maserati's new Trofeo competition coupe will be flown from Italy for a special preview demonstration at the Bathurst 24-Hour meetng next weekend.

The V8-engined Trofeo is destined for a new one-make racing series in Europe next year, marking the return of one of the most famous racing marques.

However, its Australian appearance for a a number of demonstration laps in the hands of PHR Scuderia driver John Bowe is to test the waters for a possible entry of several cars in next year's Australian Nations Cup Championship for exotic sports cars.

The Trofeo is a version of the new roadgoing 4.2-litre Maserati coupe, modified for racing.

It features competition suspension, bigger wheels and tyres, programmable engine computer, and safety roll cage and driver's seat, plus Maserati's Cambiocorsa paddle-shift gearbox.

Maserati has been developing the car since June, using world champion Michael Schumacher and test drivers Luciano Burti, Fabio Babini and Luca Badoer to put it through its paces at tracks such as Imola, Murburgring,Fiorano and Vallelunga.

After its Bathurst appearance, the Maserati Trofeo will flown back to Italy on Monday.

Australia's first major international 24-Hour race, the Bathurst 24-Hour will start at 4 pm on Saturday 16 November, after day and night qualifying sessions on Friday. Support events will be a 2-Hour GTP Showroom Showdown for GTP cars, and races on Friday and Saturday for V8 Brutes and HQ Holdens. Tickets, priced from $40 for two days, can be purchased through Ticketmaster7 by phoning 1300 136 122 or visiting www.ticketmaster7.com

-www.bathurst24hr.com

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About this article
Series Road racing
Drivers Luciano Burti , Michael Schumacher , Garth Tander , Martin Short , Nathan Pretty , Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Paul Morris , John Bowe , Fabio Babini , John Teulan , Algadri Maher , Paul Cruickshank , Steven Richards