At the twelve-hour race on the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, the Porsche team Black Swan Racing scored third overall with the 911 GT3 R, and also won the Class A Pro-Am. With this result, Marc Lieb (Germany), Timothy Pappas (USA), Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) and Luca Stolz (Germany) crowned the strong performance of the four 911 GT3 R at the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, at which all finished in the top six after a gripping race against tough competition. Only the termination of the race after a serious accident shortly before the flag prevented a possible victory. Grove Motorsports secured the second class victory, with the squad taking home the Class B trophy with the 911 GT3 Cup.
The thrilling showdown of the long distance classic on the storied racetrack 200 kilometres west of Sydney was packed with drama. With 47 minutes left on the clock, Frédéric Makowiecki (France) was running in the lead in Manthey-Racing’s 911 GT3 R. The team then decided on an early pit stop, however, this strategy was foiled when the race was red-flagged. Ultimately, the Frenchman and his teammates Dirk Werner (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) finished sixth – one position behind the world endurance champion and Le Mans winner Earl Bamber (New Zealand), who shared driving duties in the Manthey-Racing 911 GT3 R with Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Kévin Estre (France). At the wheel of the 911 GT3 R fielded by Competition Motorsports, Patrick Long (USA), Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell and his Australian compatriots David Calvert-Jones and Alex Davison crossed the finish line in fourth. Unlike the two competitors ahead of them, all 911 GT3 R racers had enough fuel on board to complete the entire race distance. The termination of the race neutralised this advantage.
The twelve-hour race in the Blue Mountains is traditionally an event for early risers. When the 49 vehicles headed off into the season-opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge on the tradition-steeped circuit west of Sydney, it was just 5.45 in the morning and pitch black. Nevertheless, the Porsche pilots were ready and raring to race, despite the early start and the fact that they were not able to tap into the full potential of the 911 GT3 R during the previous day’s qualifying. As such, they took up the race from far down the grid. Putting in a spirited charge, they made up lost ground from the start against stiff opposition. In the 911 GT3 R run by Competition Motorsports, the Class B winner from 2017, Patrick Long (USA) moved into the lead after four and a half hours. His teammate also continued the charge with consistently fast lap times and a perfect pit strategy. In this way, the 911 GT3 R fielded by Manthey-Racing, with drivers Romain Dumas, Dirk Werner and Frédéric Makowiecki sharing the cockpit, made up no less than 21 positions and was running fifth at half distance. With the 911 GT3 R campaigned by the American team Black Swan Racing, Marc Lieb, Timothy Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz worked their way from the 25th grid spot to position eight. Competing for honours in the premier A class at the Bathurst 12 Hour aside from Porsche were Audi, Bentley, BMW, Lamborghini, McLaren and Mercedes-AMG.
As the current World Challenge champion, Patrick Long was very familiar with the 911 GT3 R and hence was the first Porsche pilot to lead the field around Mount Panorama. In the second half of the race, Romain Dumas, later Matt Campbell and finally Frédéric Makowiecki took a turn at the lead. Strategically, the 911 GT3 R was prepared for all eventualities – but not for an early end to the race.
Grove Motorsports triumphed in the B Class. The cockpit of the 911 GT3 Cup was shared by Ben Barker (Great Britain), the father-son duo from Australia Stephen and Brenton Grove as well as Daniel Gaunt.
Round two of the Intercontinental GT Challenge is the 24-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps/Belgium contested on 28/29 July.
Comments on the race
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “That was an extremely exciting race characterised by many safety car phases. This made it all the more astonishing that we got all four 911 GT3 R to the finish of this red-flagged race without any problems whatsoever. Four Porsche in the top six – but unfortunately not in the positions we had aimed for. Still, we can take many positives home with us from this season-opener of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. We’re not where we want to be with the pace and the qualifying results, but we can still be very happy with the efficiency and the strong team performance. We all very much hope that the driver who had the accident that led to the cancellation of the race is okay.”
Marc Lieb (911 GT3 R #540): “This race was typical of Bathurst. Lots of accidents, lots of drama. We did exactly what we set out to do, and that’s to get through without any problems and bring the car home in one piece. We succeeded. We may not have been the fastest Porsche out there, but we had a super strategy. So we’re pretty pleased. This is a huge success for the team, particularly considering that it’s their first time in Bathurst.”
Timothy Pappas (911 GT3 R #540): “That was a fantastic race. We travelled all the way from the USA and we really enjoyed Bathurst. To win the Pro-Am class and to stand on the podium in third overall is one of the biggest successes in my career. I’d like to also thank Porsche. I’m proud to be part of Porsche’s motorsport history.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen (911 GT3 R #540): “What an incredible race. The drivers and teams didn’t make one mistake, and that’s not easy in Bathurst. We didn’t expect to climb the podium in third overall. It’s a dream.”
Luca Stolz (911 GT3 R #540): “First, thank you to the team. That was my first race on this fantastic racetrack and my first race with the 911 GT3 R. Initially it was difficult, but then I got used to it and I had a lot of fun.”
Patrick Long (911 GT3 R #12): “A great team result for Porsche. Our race was good to the end and we had a very promising fuel strategy. A class victory would have been possible at least. The race suspension then threw everything upside down. Still, congratulations to Black Swan Racing for their well-deserved podium and class victory.”
Matt Campbell (911 GT3 R #12): “During my last stint I drove one qualifying lap after the other. In the end we had the speed to be up the front, however the red flag thwarted those plans. Thanks to the team. Hopefully we’ll be back next year and then we’ll go for victory again.”
Kévin Estre (911 GT3 R #991): “If it hadn’t been for the early termination of the race, our strategy would have worked and we would have made it through to the flag. Then perhaps victory would have been on the cards.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 GT3 R #911): “We knew that we first had to bond as a team. We’ve never raced together before, and now we’re contesting the Intercontinental GT Challenge together. Bathurst was completely uncharted territory for us. We managed to improve step by step from the first practice, and towards the end of the race our 911 GT3 R was running better than it had over the entire weekend. We started from 26th on the grid and came sixth – we can be proud of this team effort.”
Ben Barker (911 GT3 Cup #4): “What an incredible, dramatic and crazy race. We scored the class win, that’s a fantastic result for this great team. Brenton Grove contested his first ever endurance race next to his father. It’s great how he performed on this difficult racetrack.”
1. Frijns/Leonard/D. Vanthoor (NL/GB/B), Audi R8, 271 laps
2. Habul/Vautier/Whincup/Marciello (AUS/F/AUS/I), Mercedes GT3, 271
3. Pappas/Lieb/Bleekemolen/Stolz (USA/D/NL/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 271
4. Long/Campbell/Calvert-Jones/Davison (USA/AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 271
5. Bamber/Estre/Vanthoor (NZ/F/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 271
6. Dumas/Werner/Makowiecki (F/D/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 271
7. Leventis/Williamson/Waters/Fumaneli (GB/GB/AUS/I), Mercedes GT3, 271
8. Manolios/Millier/Capelli/Canto (AUS/AUS/I/I), Lamborghini, 271
9. Richards/Glock/Eng (NZ/D/A), BMW M6, 270
10. Koundoris/KoundorisWalsh/Padayachee (AUS/AUS/AUS/GB), Audi R8, 269
Class A GT3 Pro-Am
1. Lieb/Campbell/Calvert-Jones/Davison (D/AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R
Class B GT3
1. Barker/Grove/Grove/Gaunt (GB/AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
All results and points standings for the Intercontinental GT Challenge can be found on http://www.intercontinentalgtchallenge.com.
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.