The Bathurst Almost 12 Hour

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The Bathurst 12 Hour (B12HR) has become a must on my motorsport calendar. I feel privileged when I visit the legendary track year after year. This is where history is made.

Over the past four years I’ve been lucky enough to attend the 12 Hour race with some good friends and my partner who all enjoy spending the weekend away. There’s not much like camping trackside as you’re never too far from the action.

It’s worth getting to Bathurst a few days before the race as there are heaps of B12HR car practice sessions, qualifying, the classics from Group S, Porsche Sports, Radicals, Combined Sedans plus a weekend long show and shine all fighting for attention. 

As the temperature drops on Saturday afternoon, qualifying gets turned up to 11 with the top 10 shootout. The results showed an impressively close set of laps with an overall difference of just 3.1 seconds. Chaz Mostert in the BMW M6 GT3 scored pole position with a time of 2:01.9340 and an average speed of 183kph.

Once the scheduled events were over for the day the track was free access for all. For some it is tradition to walk the track. For me it is tradition to walk pit lane and see what’s going on in the garages. Even after sunset, every garage buzzes with the sounds of general preparation, repairs and various pit stop practices.

 In 2017 the leaders were just 10 laps short of reaching the 300 lap target. The question before the race was could it be done in 2018? Not even one lap in and the safety car was called out due to an accident down Conrod Straight. The goal already seemed to be disappearing.

Over the course of the day the crowd was presented with a very close race. There were more cars on the lead lap than ever before.

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bathurst-12-hour-2018-domenic-ciccio-mtrvtd00070With less than an hour to go the Manthey Racing #911 was leading. It was a critical point in the race where several leading cars needed fuel just to make it to the end of the race. Manthey Racing took the gamble and ducked into the pits for a shot of fuel in order to secure their finishing run.

Audi’s Robin Frijins and Australian V8 Supercar champion, Jamie Whincup in the Mercedes GT3 were battling it out at the front. We were about to see a thrilling end to a B12HR race unfold right in front of us.

With only 20 minutes left on the clock, two cars collided on top of the mountain leaving the Superbarn Audi R8 on the racing line just after a blind corner. There was no time to warn oncoming drivers when the #19 Mercedes AMG GT veered around the corner towards the Audi at 200km/hr and collided, hard. Both drivers were able to walk away, a true testament to the strength and safety behind these GT3 cars. The accident scattered debris across the track, which would’ve required more time to clean up than the remaining minutes left on the clock. As a result the race was red flagged and the leading car, #37 of Audi Sport Team WRT was declared the winner. Some people call it luck, some people call it strategic. Call it what you will but that’s motorsport and winning is winning. I certainly hadn’t witnessed an ending like that before. bathurst-12-hour-2018-domenic-ciccio-mtrvtd00076

This year Audi claimed it’s third B12HR win. Bentley and Porsche had a taste of the lead again but it wasn’t meant to be.

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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Bring on the next 12 Hour!

The question now is what will 2019 bring? Will Nismo return? Will Toyota follow through with their idea of bringing the Supra?

 

Words & Photos by Domenic Ciccio

Instagram: @motorvated

 

Bonus imagery:

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Ever since I started spectating at the B12HR, MARC Cars Australia have been racing their first-generation Coyote 5.0L V8 powered Ford Focus and Mazda 3 cars. In recent years they’ve also raced BMW M6 GT3s. This year they debuted their Mustang inspired, second-generation MARC II which was glorious to see on the track.

The MARC Cars Australia team has been stepping it up every year. As the name suggests, they’re an Australian company who manufacture purpose built cars for global endurance racing. They started entering the 12 Hour race in 2014 and because of this event, they’ve grown into the business and team they are today, building, racing and selling their cars around the globe.

All up in 2018 they had seven cars entered with 22 drivers across two classes. MARC Cars Australia were again, the largest team at the B12HR.

I always find walking the campgrounds entertaining as the choice of cars used for camping aren’t usually associated with tents and bug spray. At the B12HR It isn’t uncommon to find a classic Porsche or Ferrari roughing it out in the open among the tents and caravans.

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