Mercedes-AMG took the 12-hour LIQUI MOLY Bathurst podium on Mount Panorama earlier today after Luke Stoltz, Jules Gunon, Kenny Habul and Martin Conrad of SunEnergy1 defeated Craft-Bamboo and Triple Eight in the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli.
Gunon received the checkered flag for 8.7 seconds from Mara Engel, who shared second place with Daniel Hunkadela and Kevin Tse, while Shane van Gisbergen, Brock Feeney and Jeffrey Ibrahim completed the podium.
It was the second victory of the Mercedes-AMG IGTC in so many competitions after AKKA ASP won the Kyalami 9 Hour in February, and the first for the manufacturer at Mount Panorama after the SLS GT3 victory in 2013. What’s more, no brand has previously blocked the podium at an international enduro in Australia.
But there was disappointment for Audi Sport, whose excellent plant-backed Valvoline entry, led by Kelvin van der Linde, Nathaniel Burton and Brad Schumacher lost the lead at nine o’clock after serving a two-minute penalty. The trio ended up in fourth place, trailing SunEnergy1 by one lap.
Behind, Lamborghini enjoyed the strongest in IGTC history outing to Bathurst thanks to Tony D’Albert of Wall Racing, David Wall, Adrian Deitz and Grant Denier, who passed under the radar on their way to fifth place overall.
HUNON RIDES BACK IN BATHERST, UNDER LATE PRESSURE BY ENGEL
Gunon’s second win in as many starts on Mount Panorama, albeit with a difference of 830 days and from different manufacturers, was made possible by the timing of Team Valvoline’s driver, Stoltz’s impeccable contribution during his five hours at the wheel and a proxy war with a fellow ace. Engel. during the last two segments.
The fog over the mountain demanded the start of the safety car in pitch darkness at 5:15 a.m. local time before the race began in earnest after two laps. At the opening of the exhibition were competitors Pole Shootout Chaz Mostert and Kelvin van der Linde, who equaled each other from lap to lap ahead, breaking out of the chase led by Stoltz, Marcus Winkelhock (Audi Sport Team Valvoline) and Feeney.
But a flurry of new safety cars as well as heavy rain were going to bring the sleeping giant back into the game. The engine change did not allow Craft-Bamboo’s Mercedes-AMG to pass any laps on Saturday and left Engel starting in the back row. The German was soon 12th, but, trapped in traffic, was unable to advance. Say an unusual strategy of servicing mandatory pit stops during and then immediately after periods of safety cars to speak nine longer two-minute stops in front of their opponents, which would allow a quicker change of rider later in the race.
At the same time, the Valvoline team also used an alternative approach to №74 training, giving priority to driver Am, Schumacher, over van der Linde and Burton. By completing their bulk of total driving time in the early periods of car safety, Audi professionals were able to beat rival Ams in a green flag during the race.
This strategy seemed to pay off when Van der Linde became the leader on merit, although there was one mandatory pit stop left, bypassing Ibrahim and Tse late at eight o’clock. Stoltz, whose SunEnergy1 team ran a more conventional strategy and has already completed its nine CPS, followed suit after a while to create what was to be an exciting finish between Mercedes-AMG and Audi.
But that didn’t happen after Valvoline’s chances of winning were effectively halted at nine o’clock by a two-minute penalty for exceeding Schumacher’s maximum continuous stay, causing the car to break out of the lead.
Thus, SunEnergy1 inherited the lead, with Craft-Bamboo and Triple Eight finishing the top three as the race approached its final quarter. And in wet but dry conditions it was Stoltz who managed to defeat Hunkadela in almost 20 years before moving on to slick and passing it to Gunon.
Engel, who climbed aboard the Craft-Bamboo entrance on a wheel earlier, survived the trip through the Hell Corner gravel trap and the potential damage to the separator in Van Gisbergen’s rupture and reduce some of Gunon’s benefits. The pair emphasized their factory status by matching each other lap by lap and keeping a difference of 13 seconds until the final round of pit stops.
Both crews, as well as Triple Eight, have chosen a new set of Pirelli images for the last hour. But it was Craft-Bamboo that turned its Mercedes-AMG faster to reduce Engel’s deficit to eight seconds.
However, this flair of chance was thwarted by Gunon, who, retaining his advantage over the checkered flag, became the first winner of the “12 hours” after Craft-Bamboo owner Daryl O’Yang achieved the same feat in 2011 and ’12.
The Triple Eight were there or around all day, but couldn’t keep up with the pace of their Mercedes-AMG stablemates – a fact underscored by supercars and the great Van Gisbergen of Bathurst, who lost touch with the top two.
Audi Sport left to ponder what might have happened after Van der Linde set a barrage of staggering lap times as well as the fastest of the day in the last two hours. № 74 finished the lap ahead in fourth place, three places ahead of Valvoline’s home team, which failed to challenge after falling early from the lead.
Meanwhile, the R8 LMS Evo II GT3, which won at Coinspot, has weathered several challenges despite Mostert’s apparent speed before resigning forever after trimming a wall approaching Skyline.
The same stretch of race track also falls on Porsche from Grove Racing, which seemed to finish fifth. Instead, Wall Racing’s moderate approach helped Lamborghini take its best finish in Bathurst in fifth place overall.
Audi from Hallmarc, shared by Lee Holdsworth, Dean Fiore and Mark Chini, enjoyed just as no problem to finish the top 6, ahead of Valvoline’s second R8 team featuring Winkelhock, Ricardo Feller and Yasser Shahin.
The BRM team can please the eighth place after the repair of the car on Saturday. Nick Perkat and Joey Mawson made the most of the humid conditions to spend time in the leaders early before the time spent eliminating the broken rain lantern released the car, which also featured Mark Rosser.
Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli points will be awarded just before the second round of the championship at TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, which will be held July 28-31.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group