The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour began in 1991 and is an endurance race for GT and production cars from all over the world, held on Mount Panorama Race Circuit. It is a race for GT3, GT4 and invited production-based endurance vehicles. Top flight GT3 teams will have 3-4 professional drivers with lower GT3 categories allowing non-professional drivers. GT4 and Invited have no driver restrictions.
The Bathurst 12 Hour is now acknowledged around the world as one of the most significant races in the GT series calendar, alongside the likes of the Nurburgring 24hr. It has also become one of my favourite races. Far less hectic than the Bathurst 1000 Supercars and the variety of cars is awesome. The event is growing though with 50,000 fans through the gates from first practice Thursday.
The race starts Sunday in the pre-dawn black at 5:45 am. That first 45 minutes until sunrise is arguably the best 45 minutes of racing in the world. The cars are epic with glowing brakes, fire breathing exhausts and showers of sparks as underbellies are tortured with the weight of full fuel tanks. The cool, dense morning air provides maximum horsepower and the sound of the 34 cars exploding up The Mountain from a rolling start is indescribable. Although it was 30 degrees at the start of the race and got into the 40s later that afternoon. As usual at Bathurst, the weather was a factor. A dust storm rolled in from the west around midday and thunderstorms threatened all afternoon. Wet weather tyres were shuffled around pit lane for hours, but no rain fell until the chequered flag dropped.
A total of 124 driver in 40 cars came to The Mountain but only 34 cars would start the race. Local talent included the likes of Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup, Chaz Mostert, Rick Kelly, David Reynolds, Anton De Pasquale and Matt Campbell. Internationals included 5-times Indy Car Champion, Scott Dixon, Pikes Peak Hill Climb record holder, Romain Dumas and former Erebus Motorsport V8 Supercar driver, Maro Engel.
The Bathurst 12 Hour is a race of two halves. The first 6 hours is about investment laps and survival. The last 6 hours is about fighting for position, minimising pit stops and being within striking distance for the final hour of madness. The 2020 race was a story of mishaps, punctures and pit lane penalties. And racing the rain.
This years Bathurst 12 hour saw several records broken such as the fastest average speed of 161km and highest number of laps completed in a race with 313 laps. We also got the longest run of green flag racing.
At the end of 12 hours and 33 seconds of furious racing it was the #7 Bentley Continental and Frenchman Jules Gounon that crossed the line first despite qualifying 11th and having to pit for a flat tyre late in the race. This is Bentley’s first win at Bathurst and they become the 6th manufacturer in as many years to claim title.
Great news also come post-race that SRO Motorsport Group, the promoter of the Intercontinental GT Challenge has pledged $25,000 to Australia’s bush fire appeal.
I have no idea how the Bathurst 12 Hour could possibly offer more excitement in 2021 but I’ll be there to find out. You should be too.
Words and photos by Michael Allen of Dialed In Photography