Bathurst 12 Hour
|Venue||Mount Panorama Circuit|
|Corporate sponsor||Liqui Moly|
|Most wins (driver)||John Bowe (3)|
|Most wins (manufacturer)||Mazda (4)|
The Bathurst 12 Hour (currently known as the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour for sponsorship reasons) is an endurance race for GT and production cars held at the Mount Panorama Circuit, in Bathurst, Australia in February each year. The race was first held in 1991 for Series Production cars and moved to Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway in 1995 before being discontinued. The race was revived in 2007, again for production cars, before adding a new class for GT3 and other GT cars in 2011. This has led to unprecedented domestic and international exposure for the event. In all, fifteen races have taken place; fourteen at Mount Panorama and one at Eastern Creek Raceway.
The event was inspired by the long-running Bathurst 1000 touring car race, which began at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Victoria in 1960 (before moving to Bathurst in 1963) as a race for standard production cars with minimal modifications. As the Bathurst 1000 evolved, the touring cars that raced in it moved further and further away from the minimal modifications of the original race. The Bathurst 12 Hour was intended to create the original feel of the Bathurst 1000, while providing a unique test in the longer race distance, rather than replicating the 1000 kilometre event.
In 1990, Vincent Tesoriero, a race promoter and former Bathurst 1000 competitor, looked at the decline of Group A touring cars in Australia and saw an opportunity to run a 12-hour endurance race for Series Production cars at Mount Panorama. Tesoriero secured long time Bathurst 1000 sponsor James Hardie as a sponsor for the event in late 1990, leaving limited time to launch and organise the event for the Easter weekend in 1991. The race regulations were based on the Group 3E Series Production Car rules then in use in the Australian Production Car Championship for naturally aspirated four- and six-cylinder passenger sedans, but also allowed turbocharged and V8-engined cars which had been outlawed from the Production Car Championship in 1990. Despite the short deadline, twenty-four cars were entered for the first race, spread over six different classes based on engine capacity and sporting specification. Exotic mid-engined sports cars and GT cars were not eligible to enter.
The race was originally scheduled to run from 9am to 9pm but this was disallowed by Bathurst Regional Council. The race would instead run from 5:15am to 5:15pm, with the final two hours televised by Network Ten. Despite the event's length, the competitors proved extremely reliable, with twenty cars finishing the race. The race was won by Allan Grice, Peter Fitzgerald and Nigel Arkell racing Fitzgerald's 1989 Production Car Championship specification Toyota Supra Turbo.
In 1992, manufacturer-backed teams began to appear with large teams entered and funded by Mazda, Holden, Citroën and Peugeot. Porsche would also provide factory support from 1993 onwards. Honda, Nissan, Maserati, BMW and Lotus were also represented but not by factory-supported teams. The Mazda team would go on to dominate the event with the Mazda RX-7, winning four consecutive races from 1992 to 1995.
After no major race for production cars for a number of years, the concept was revived with the short lived Bathurst 24 Hour races in 2002 and 2003. The races were run by Nations Cup owners PROCAR and were dominated by the controversial Holden Monaro 427Cs of Garry Rogers Motorsport. The Monaros were controversial because of their use of the 7.0-litre, V8 engine rather than the 5.7-litre Gen III engines used by the Monaro CV8 road car. The Bathurst 24 Hour only lasted two years before PROCAR owner Ross Palmer was forced to abandon the race due to rising costs.
The Bathurst 12 Hour was successfully revived in 2007 as part of the Bathurst Motorsport Festival, with the regulations close to its original concept as a race for production cars. 32 cars were entered for the 2007 race, which was won by Garry Holt, Paul Morris and Craig Baird in a BMW 335i. The number of entries grew over the next three years, peaking at 49 in 2009, while the final race held strictly to production car regulations in 2010 attracted 42 entries. The event itself grew in stature each year, firmly entrenching itself as one of the biggest race meetings at the start of the domestic Australian racing season, along with the Clipsal 500 and the Australian Grand Prix.
In 2011, GT3-specification cars were allowed into the 12 hour race for the first time. Despite this, the number of entries dropped dramatically as many of the production car teams decided not to race. Of the 26 cars that competed in 2011, just eight raced in the production car classes, compared with the 42 that made up the full 2010 field. The German-based Joest Racing dominated the 2011 event, with the team's two Audi R8 LMS GT3s finishing first and second, a lap ahead of the third-placed Porsche. 2012 saw another small field of just 25 cars. Audi won the race for the second consecutive year, this time with DTM and FIA GT1 team Phoenix Racing.
The 2013 event ended the two-year run of poor entry numbers, with a record field of over 50 cars. Another first for the event saw the opening round of the 2013 Australian GT Championship incorporated into the first hour of the race. The results of the GT Championship round were based on the positions of the cars that had elected to race for GT Championship points at the end of the first hour of racing. Teams could then either continue on and complete the full race, or withdraw their car after the first hour. Drivers were allowed to cross-enter between cars so that they could race one car in the one-hour GT Championship race and then drive another car that was entered for the full 12 hours. Erebus Motorsport took the first win for an Australian team under the GT regulations with German drivers Bernd Schneider, Thomas Jäger and Alexander Roloff taking their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG to victory.
Maranello Motorsport took a poignant win in the 2014 event—the team's former driver Allan Simonsen was killed in a crash at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans—with V8 Supercar driver Craig Lowndes holding off a late charge from German driver Maximilian Buhk to take victory. 2014 also saw the introduction of the Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy, named in honour of Simonsen, to be awarded to the fastest car in qualifying. The 2015 race featured a record twenty safety car periods, the last coming just minutes from the end of the race. Katsumasa Chiyo, driving a Nissan GT-R, took the lead with two laps remaining to give Nissan its first major victory at Mount Panorama since the 1992 Bathurst 1000.
In August 2015, the V8 Supercars-owned company Supercars Events purchased 50% of the Bathurst 12 Hour, joining existing part-owners Bathurst Regional Council. This followed a date clash between the 2015 12 Hour and V8 Supercars' 2015 pre-season test day which saw V8 Supercar drivers, such as 2014 12 Hour-winner Lowndes, forced to take part in the test day and be unable to race in the 12 Hour. With an increasing focus on the outright GT3 cars and a dwindling number of production cars in the race, the former organisers of the 12 Hour, Yeehah Events, announced the production car-based Bathurst 6 Hour for 2016, to restore a Bathurst endurance race for the production category. The 6 Hour will be part of the Bathurst Motor Festival at Easter.
The 2016 race was the inaugural race of the newly formed Intercontinental GT Challenge, which also includes the Sepang 12 Hours and Spa 24 Hours and is managed by the Stéphane Ratel Organisation. The event itself saw record pace from Shane Van Gisbergen in qualifying and the race to lead his Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S GT3 to victory alongside McLaren factory driver Álvaro Parente and Tekno team owner/driver Jonathon Webb.
|3||John Bowe||1995, 2010, 2014|
|2||Garry Waldon||1992, 1993|
|Rod Salmon||2008, 2009|
|Damien White||2008, 2009|
|Garry Holt||2007, 2010|
|Paul Morris||2007, 2010|
|Christopher Mies||2011, 2012|
|Darryl O'Young||2011, 2012|
|4||Mazda||1992, 1993, 1994, 1995|
Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy
In 2014, a trophy was introduced for pole position, named after Allan Simonsen who died at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans. Simonsen, who had raced several times in Australia as part of a long and varied career, held the Bathurst 12 Hour race lap record at the time as well as driving the fastest officially timed lap around Mount Panorama in a closed-wheel car. The introduction of the trophy coincided with the relaxing of qualifying restrictions from previous years, with the removal of the minimum allowed lap time (two minutes and six seconds), therefore allowing a major improvement in qualifying times. In 2014, Simonsen's former team at the 12 Hour, Maranello Motorsport, narrowly missed pole to Maro Engel by less than a tenth of a second. Maranello went on to win the race itself. In 2015, Laurens Vanthoor set the fastest ever officially recorded time of Mount Panorama in qualifying. This time was only to last twelve months, with Shane Van Gisbergen beating the time by over one second in qualifying for the 2016 race.
|2014||Maro Engel||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3||Erebus Motorsport||2:03.8586|
|2015||Laurens Vanthoor||Audi R8 LMS Ultra||Phoenix Racing||2:02.5521|
|2016||Shane Van Gisbergen||McLaren 650S GT3||Tekno Autosports||2:01.2860|
The entire 2015 and 2016 races were broadcast live on the Seven Network and 7mate, and were also streamed worldwide on the Bathurst 12 Hour website. At the 2013 event commentary was provided by the team from Radio Show Limited/Radio Le Mans who broadcast every session live on www.radiolemans.com establishing an International audience for the event as well as underlining great interest in endurance racing from within Australia. Subsequently as TV channels became aware of the size of the audience, RSL provided their service to SBS in 2014 and Seven Network in 2015 - 2016 as well as hosting a free to air streming video player of qualifying and the race on the Radiolemans.com website. The race has been broadcast on Speed and SBS, and as a highlights package on SBS. The race was broadcast by Network Ten in the 1990s.
The estimated viewing audience for the 2014 race was over half a million people from 150 countries.
- 1991–94: James Hardie
- 2007–09: Wright Patton Shakespeare (WPS)
- 2010–12: Armor All
- 2013–18: Liqui Moly
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