The inaugural running of the overhauled Bathurst 12 Hour event concluded late Sunday afternoon and, despite initial negativity from the event’s touring car stalwarts, the mixed field of 27 GT and Touring competitors failed to disappoint.
With many fans claiming this year’s rendition of the event was ‘the best so far’, the subsequent influx of praise received from both local and global viewers is as good a sign as any event organisers may have struck the note its audience believe is worth expanding on.
Without the support and presence of Audi Race Experience Team Joest, the inaugural running of the overhauled event could arguably have turned out much differently.
After rounding out their 2010 season with a second-placed finish at the emerging Sepang 12 Hour event in Malaysia, the German squad, based in Odenwald, had committed two entries in the lead up the event and, like most factory outfits, brought with it an entourage of drivers and crew personnel, along with an armory of equipment and famous AudiSport hospitality for their Bathurst debut.
Although arriving at the event with what can be considered a venerable arsenal of driving talent in the crew of Mies, Basseng, O’Young, Lowndes, Luff and Eddy, the outfit faced a battle against both time and preparation.
Despite Joest’s factory driver contingent (Mies/Basseng/O’Young) having never driven the circuit, and Australian drivers Lowndes and Luff having never tested the R8 LMS GT3 before the event’s first practice session, the already seasoned Joest squad faced little difficulty acclimatising to their surroundings.
The team managed to achieve fastest times in both practice and qualifying sessions. Due to the abstract qualifying format used by event organisers to determine qualifying times (aggregated times) the #7 entry of Lowndes/Luff/Eddy secured outright pole, followed closely by the #8 sister entry of Basseng/Mies/O’Young taking second on the grid, leaving a gaggle of Porsche entries in their wake, lead by the #29 VIP PetFoods GT3-R entry of Craig Baird and Tony/Klark Quinn. The #29 would later be revealed as the sole thorn in the side of Joest’s efforts throughout the race.
Commencing at 6.15am local time (AEDST), both Joest entries soared to an early lead as many had expected. With the #7 car of Lowndes leading the field during the opening laps of the event before yielding to Basseng in the #8 sister car. Both drivers would run single stints on their first outing.
Joest would opt to return Lowndes and Basseng to pitlane for driver changes early during the second hour, ceding driving duties to Luff and Mies in what would later turn out to be a mammoth opening stint of over two hours for both drivers.
The opening stint for Mies and Luff saw both drivers adapt to their surroundings early, as anticipated. The duo often turning times seconds faster than their closest competitors.
Both Mies/Luff would achieve fastest overall times during the later stages of their stints. The 21 year old German and 2009 FIA-GT3 champion, Mies particularly impressing with his consistently aggressive driving style.
Mies and Luff would later pass control to Canadian ace, Darryl O’Young and Penfold AudiSport team owner, Mark Eddy, in their respective entries to complete the final change of hands in the first cycle of driver changes.
The event now in it’s fourth hour, the #8 of O’Young continued in the lead with Eddy in its wake. With the VIP GT3R entry of Baird in rapid pursuit, Eddy would later relinquish second position, allowing the 41-year old New Zealand national and local Porsche Motorsport stalwart to pursue the leading sister car of O’Young.
Despite O’Young still possessing a commanding lead, the VIP Porsche GT3R of Baird was able to gain significant ground on the Cananadian as both time, and double-stinted tyres wore on.
Baird was later able to capitalise on Joest’s rigidly defined pit strategy, placing the #29 in the overall lead. This pattern of changes would continue for much of the race.
The closing hours of the event saw tension rise across the paddock as several teams aimed to secure well-placed finishes or, in some cases maintain an on-track presence, in the case of both Freestone Corvette and EagleOne Lotus squads.
British GT regulars Lester/Simonsen experienced their fair share of misfortune throughout the day, encountering difficulties with their F430 entry on several occasions.
Racing incidents also plagued the efforts of locally entered contenders SupaBarn and Hallmarc Racing. With the #69 SupaBarn Porsche GT3 Cup S entry of J.Koundouris/T.Koundouris, and V8SC regular Steve Owen experiencing an early race altercation amongst several other incidents throughout the course of the 12 hour event.
The #12 HallMarc entry of local professionals Cini/Reynolds/Fiore suffered issues on multiple occasions throughout the race, including tyre blowouts and, during the later stages of the event, a race ending shunt on the hill-top section of the circuit known as ‘Skyline.’
Although remaining on the lead lap for over eleven hours and sharing the overall lead on occasion, the efforts of the #29 VIP GT3R entry would ultimately be undone as a result of an unfortunate oversight on the team’s behalf.
Having not served mandatory pit requirements (minimum of 12x 90sec+ stops for 2010+ GT3-spec machinery) the team would be forced to complete a final stop before taking the flag. The stop leading to the loss of a single lap against both Joest entries. Despite this, #29 VIP PetFoods squad would go on to round out a valiant effort by securing a well deserved third.
Following fault-free outings from both Eddy/Luff in the #7, and the #8 crew of Basseng/Mies, Joest delegated driving duties to Lowndes and O’Young for the closing stages of the race. During the final change over stop both Audis entered pitlane in 1-2 tandem, with Mies having maintained the lead up until the final stop.
After what had been a near infallible showing, O’Young would be cleared for exit before the sister car, with Lowndes now seated at the helm and, in an unfortunate turn of events vaguely reminiscent of Minassian’s Le Mans 2009 spin (within view of the Peugeot pit and hospitality area), the Canadian driver lost control of the #8, faltering at pitlane exit.
This incident saw Lowndes assume the race lead with less than one hour remaining. During this period, the five-time Bathurst 1000 winner would go on to set not only the fastest lap of the race, but of all sessions combined in the form of a 2:09.0861 (lap 267). Sending a clear message to both his team mates, and primary competition.
At this stage many had assumed the #8 (having served its pit requirements) would cruise to the finish. This however, would not be the case. With only fifteen minutes remaining, O’Young would be required to take more fuel in order to see the checkered.
Entering pitlane with only a 50sec margin over the #7 sister car, the #8 crew could spare only minimal time refueling. Fortunately for O’Young, this would prove to be a sufficient margin. Allowing the Canadian to re-enter the race with a ten second margin still in hand.
With less then ten minutes and the race more or less decided, both entries began winding down the remaining laps toward the checkered. As is customary for such finishes, O’Young and Lowndes assembled for a factory formation cruise to the checkered flag.
The victory not only marking Audi’s entry to the winners circle on their Bathurst debut, but as the first winners under new regulations. Etching another milestone to the marque’s already impressive list of achievements and laying down the gauntlet for potential vying manufacturers in future years.
Audi Race Experience Team Joest drivers and personnel issued the following statements (courtesy AusMotive.com):
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi race experience Team Joest):
“Very honestly: this race was almost more nerve-wrecking than quite a few Le Mans races. A real thriller! As predicted, it took quite a while until we got a clear idea of everyone’s performances. There were different pit stop rules for different cars.
It was exciting right up until the end. The Porsche that finished third also had a fair chance as did one Cup car. Our number 7 car just had bad luck. Without the puncture, it could have clearly won the race. We drove for quite a long time on slick tires in wet conditions.
The experience of our local heroes’ paid off. In these conditions, they were faster sometimes by a few seconds. Thus, the Australians built up a considerable lead. They were unfortunate to lose it due to the additional stop.
As this incident happened shortly after a mandatory pit stop, it didn’t count – there has to be a minimum of ten laps in between them. It got tense towards the end as the guys really went for it. Both cars were free to race for victory.
Ten minutes before the end, there was a splash and dash pitstop for the number 8 car. We’ve guided the cars to the finish in this order in the remaining three laps. A big thank you also to Mark Eddy. Nine of his team members supported us in Bathurst. Within five days, we’ve gelled into a fantastic team.”
Marc Basseng (Audi Top Service R8 LMS #8):
“Incredible! It was my first win with Audi in an endurance race lasting 12 hours. The car was perfect. Such a close fight inside one team – unbelievable how evenly-matched those two cars have been. I’m over the moon.”
Christopher Mies (Audi Top Service R8 LMS #8):
“I’m speechless! After twelve hours, we’ve won by a margin of 0.7 seconds. Both cars fought for victory. Craig Lowndes tried everything in the number seven car. At the end, it was enough for Marc, Darryl and myself to win. I’m delighted. Now I’ve clinched my first win in an endurance race with Audi.”
Darryl O’Young (Audi Top Service R8 LMS #8):
“A wonderful weekend. The R8 LMS was fantastic, as were my team mates Christopher Mies and Marc Basseng. Towards the end, I was under immense pressure. Then I made a mistake in the pit exit and touched the wall.
Thus the number seven car had a chance to put pressure on us. I didn’t want to risk anything in that situation. But when it became clear that I had to do one more splash-and-dash pitstop, I went flat out again. The 1-2 win is a great result. Audi race experience Team Joest has worked perfectly.”
Mark Eddy (Audi Australia R8 LMS #7):
“That was a fantastic race for both the German and the Australian Audi line-up. For Audi to get a 1-2 victory in their maiden race at Bathurst is just a testament of how good the R8 LMS cars are. I would love for Audi to come back again to Bathurst.”
Craig Lowndes (Audi Australia R8 LMS #7):
“The weekend was sensational. It was a great weekend for Australians to be involved. It was unbelievable that Audi would consider to coming here to Bathurst. It’s our grand final, it’s our track that we love so much.
It’s great for Audi and Audi race experience Team Joest to come and campaign two cars at this event. We didn’t know the car, Marc, Christopher and Darryl didn’t know the circuit. I think we combined very well as a team. And we got a result that the team deserved, a 1-2.”
Warren Luff (Audi Australia R8 LMS #7):
“It was an amazing day. Full credit to Audi and Team Joest. They’ve just done an amazing job from the moment they’ve arrived. They’ve given us great cars and are a great team. And we’ve been up to produce a great result for everyone.
It’s been great to have been part of this. I hope it’s not the last time that I race an Audi R8 LMS. It’s an amazing car. It’s the best car I’ve ever raced. Audi have got such a great history in endurance racing. I hope to continue to be a part of it.”
- Basseng/Mies/O’Young (Audi R8 LMS), 292 laps in 12h 01m 30.7045s
- Eddy/Lowndes/Luff (Audi R8 LMS) + 0.7141s
- Baird/Quinn/Quinn (Porsche) -1 lap
- Wall/Mawer/Crick (Porsche) -3 laps
- Lago/Kingsley/Russell (Porsche) -10 laps
- Simonsen/Searle/Lester (Ferrari) -16 laps
- O’Donnell/McLennan/Konopka (Porsche) -28 laps
- Dippie/Thompson/Maddren (Porsche) -35 laps
- Conroy/Robson/Brame (Mitsubishi) -36 laps
- O’Donnell/Hansen/D’Agostin (BMW) -40 laps