Following the 24-hour classics in Dubai and Daytona, motor racing fans from around the world now aim their attention at Australia. On February 4th, the Bathurst 12 Hour event takes off at the legendary Mount Panorama Circuit in the state of New South Wales. The 12-hour race serves as the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. Porsche supports international customer teams in their campaign with the 911 GT3 R by providing works drivers and engineers. The squads tackling Bathurst are Manthey-Racing, Craft Bamboo Racing and Competition Motorsports. With seven factory pilots and a Young Professional, these teams will contest the top class against stiff opposition from Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Mercedes-AMG. Four races on four continents make up the Intercontinental GT Challenge calendar. At the season-opener on the storied Australian racetrack, 60 vehicles line up to compete in various categories, amongst them eleven Porsche 911 GT3 R, 911 GT3 Cup and Cayman GT4 Clubsport models.
One of the peculiarities of the race on the 6.213-kilometre Mount Panorama Circuit is the starting time: Traditionally, the field is sent on its 12-hour pursuit in the dark at 5.45 in the morning. The rollercoaster circuit nestled in the picturesque foothills of the Blue Mountains features 23 corners and gradients of up to 16 percent. For most of the year the storied racetrack, built as a part of an employment relief effort in the 1930s, serves as a public road.
The Porsche Drivers
Seven works drivers and one Young Professional tackle the Bathurst enduro event for Porsche customer teams driving the 911 GT3 R. The Manthey-Racing cockpit is shared by Romain Dumas (France), Dirk Werner (Germany) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France). This trio will contest the entire season of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. Driving for Craft Bamboo Racing are Earl Bamber (New Zealand), the outright Le Mans winner from 2015 and 2017, Kévin Estre (France) as well as Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), the 2016 winner of this racing series. Patrick Long (USA) and Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia) take up the challenge of this fascinating race for Competition Motorsports. These two won the Pro-Am class in 2017 and scored second in the overall classification.
The Porsche 911 GT3 R
The 911 GT3 R was designed by Porsche for worldwide GT3 series on the basis of the 911 GT3 RS production sports car. Mounted with the ultra-modern, four-litre flat-six engine with direct fuel injection, the 368 kW (500 hp) customer sports racer celebrated its race debut in January 2016 at the Daytona 24-hour race. Since then, the racer has notched up victories in numerous international racing series, for example in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the World Challenge, the ADAC GT Masters, and at the Nürburgring VLN long distance championship on demanding Nordschleife.
The Bathurst 12 Hour takes off on Sunday, 4 February, at 5:45 hrs local time (Saturday, 19:45 hrs CET). Outside Australia, the event can be viewed live on the Internet on http://www.bathurst12hour.com.au.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “The Intercontinental GT Challenge is an attractive racing series which enjoys a high profile globally. For this year’s races, we’re supporting international teams in their 911 GT3 R mission with works drivers and engineers from Porsche Motorsport. The opening round in Bathurst is also the first highlight and a very complex challenge on a fascinating racetrack. With its hilly passages, the Mount Panorama Circuit very much resembles the Nordschleife and puts drivers under the same high demands. With the 911 GT3 R, we’re giving the teams a reliable and competitive car with which they can race for victory at Bathurst.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager 911 GT3 R: “The regulations prohibit the use of evolutionary stages, which have been homologated for 2018. Therefore, in Bathurst, we’re fielding 2017-spec vehicles. So our customer teams can build on the experiences gained last year. The Mount Panorama Circuit allows no room for error. The biggest challenge will be to cover the twelve-hour distance without a mistake. This won’t be easy, because on the high-speed passages there’s often only a narrow grass strip between the track and the guardrail.”
Romain Dumas (911 GT3 R #911): “This race has been missing from my collection. I’m really pleased that I finally get the chance to compete here. I’ve heard that the racetrack is fantastic, almost like the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring. To drive the 911 GT3 R on this course at Mount Panorama will certainly be a lot of fun. The fact that we’re contesting the entire Intercontinental GT Challenge and that we want to win the title, of course, makes it all the more important to achieve a top result at Bathurst.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 GT3 R #911): “I’ve travelled the world a lot, but I’ve never been to Australia. I’m looking forward to the country as much as I’m looking forward to the race. It’s definitely one of the greatest challenges in motor racing. I can hardly wait to turn the first laps with our 911 GT3 R on this awesome circuit. Many of my racing driver colleagues have raved about it. Starting the race in the dark early in the morning is bound to be a very special experience.”
Dirk Werner (911 GT3 R #911): “I’ve always wanted to contest the race in Bathurst. It’s turned into a real classic for GT3 vehicles in recent years. I’m pleased that it’s finally worked. It’ll certainly be exciting. The racetrack must be incredible, so I’ve been told. My teammates and I are all Bathurst rookies, but our 911 GT3 R is a very good car and Manthey-Racing is a strong team – so we’re in good hands.”
Earl Bamber (911 GT3 R #991): “I’m excited to return to Bathurst. This race is gaining in popularity from year to year. It’s a highlight for every racing driver, regardless of the series we drive in during the rest of the year. Last year, we performed very well here with the 911 GT3 R, and we were even leading at times. With a strong field of 60 cars with a lot of great drivers on this very special racetrack – you’d better be prepared for some surprises.”
Kévin Estre (911 GT3 R #991): “The Mount Panorama Circuit is one of those tradition-steeped racetracks that I very much like – a little crazy, but very challenging and with its very own character. My colleagues and I raced the 911 GT3 R here in 2017 and we did very well. I’m really looking forward to my first race of the year.”
Laurens Vanthoor (911 GT3 R #991): “To race in Bathurst one week after Daytona is a great way to start the season. The Mount Panorama Circuit is one of my all-time favourite racetracks: it’s as fascinating and varied as the Nordschleife, and just as difficult. And then there are the enthusiastic Australian fans who lend a fantastic atmosphere. This’ll be my fourth time at Bathurst, however I’ve never managed to win here. This time I’d like to change that.”
Patrick Long (911 GT3 R #12): “The grid lineup at Bathurst is insane. Sixty cars with many strong drivers from all over the world on a fascinating racetrack – it’s flat-out right from the start. Bathurst offers everything that makes a great long-distance race. No wonder it’s so popular with drivers and fans.”
Matt Campbell (911 GT3 R #12): “For me as an Australian, Bathurst is obviously the ultimate highlight. I look forward to returning to Mount Panorama with the 911 GT3 R and my old team. We did well last year, winning the Pro-Am class and finishing second overall. That was a great achievement. Although the opposition is even stronger this year, especially in our class, I hope things go as well for us.”
This is the Intercontinental GT Challenge
The Intercontinental GT Challenge is the world’s first racing series run for GT3 vehicles. It was founded in 2016 by the SRO Motorsports Group led by Stéphane Ratel. Porsche will not compete with a factory squad, but instead supports international customer teams in their campaign with the 911 GT3 R by providing works drivers and engineers. The 2018 calendar is made up of four races on four continents.
The 2018 races
04 February Bathurst 12 Hour, Mount Panorama Circuit – Bathurst, Australia
28/29 July 24 Hours of Spa, Circuit Spa-Francorchamps – Spa, Belgium
26 August Suzuka 10 Hours, Suzuka International Racing Course – Suzuka, Japan
28 October Mazda Raceway California 8 Hours, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – Laguna Seca, USA