Bathurst 12 Hour: 2012 Event preview.

Audisport Team Joest leads the field during the opening lap of the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy GraphicDakPhotos / Dirk Klynsmith

With final entries confirmed and, few days remaining until green, Australia’s fledgling Bathurst 12 Hour event is preparing for the 2012 edition of what is rapidly becoming an early season fixture in global endurance racing.

Sporting an increase in the quality and, quantity of competitors, the event’s organisers have once again lured entries of significant substance from both Australia, and further abroad; with teams from the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom having committed entries.

Although multiple factors (e.g. conflicting event schedules, business interests) have inhibited the event’s uptake of local competitors, in both GT and production touring classes, the 2012 event sees arguably the deepest, most diverse and, professional field in recent years.

With increased factory involvement in the fight for outright honours, and the emergence of multiple, high-calibre privateer entries, no less than four marques (Audi, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lamborghini) are represented in the battle for overall victory.

AudiSport Team Phoenix - Bathurst 12 Hour, 2012 Australiana liveries.

AudiSport Team Phoenix will sport Australiana-themed liveries for the 2012 event; Left: Lowndes, Luff, Eddy; Right: Mies, Jöns, O'Young.

Returning to defend their 2011 title, reigning champions Audi will this time be represented via esteemed factory affiliate outfit, Phoenix Racing. Renowned for their consistent successes in Germany’s domestic touring and GT series, the Ernst Moser-led operation will make their circuit debut at the 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour.

Although competing at Bathurst for the first time, Phoenix racing have enlisted the services of Audi’s successful core driving lineup from the 2011 12 hour; with Mies, O’Young, Lowndes, Luff and Eddy having been retained for the 2012 event.

Young AudiSport GT talent, Christer Jöns (widely known for exploits within ADAC GT) will partner Mies/O’Young in the #1 Audi; the 24-year old German assumes the position vacated by Marc Basseng’s omission; a change presumably enacted due to the event’s driver seeding regulations (stipulating a maximum of two ‘seeded’ or, professional drivers).

Bearing the most collectively experienced driving lineup (in regards to both circuit and vehicle knowledge), thoroughly proven machinery and, a record of consistent successes elsewhere, there remains little evidence to suggest Phoenix Racing won’t enter the 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour as firm contenders for outright victory.

One of multiple Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG entries during round nine of the 2011 VLN Endurance Championship. - Image courtesy Black Falcon.

Following a recent overall victory at the Dubai 24 Hour, German endurance outfit and Mercedes factory-affiliate, Black Falcon will also enter the 2012 event for the first time.

Headed by an entry consisting of drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen, Tim Slade, Peter Hackett, and Bret Curtis, the team’s primary lineup bears collective experiences in endurance (both GT and Prototype), touring, and open-wheel competition, contributing arguably the event’s most diversely skilled driving outfit.

Local drivers Slade (V8SC) and Hackett (AustralianGT) will significantly contribute valuable circuit knowledge to both the team, and fellow drivers, Bleekemolen and Curtis; both of whom will, despite lacking circuit knowledge, draw on their respective (and considerable) experience with similar endurance events.

Although fielding (two) entries of a collectively lesser experienced (and professional) nature than closest rivals Phoenix Racing, Black Falcon enter the 2012 event as a potential and, realistic threat to Audi’s established success at the 12 hour race.

Despite significant involvement on behalf of Audi (via Phoenix Racing) and Mercedes (via Black Falcon), increased commitment from a viciously competitive privateer contingent renders the potential for either marque to effortlessly secure outright victory considerably unlikely.

Representing the majority of the GT field, privateer runners enter the 2012 event against the collective might of both Audi and Mercedes factory (affiliate) outfits. Although entering a class overshadowed by the successful reputations of both Phoenix Racing and Black Falcon, multiple privateer squads enter the event with ample offensive capabilities afforded by both machinery and driving talent.

Maranello Motorsport's Ferrari 458 Italia during testing, at the 2012 Bathurst drive event. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

Local entries Maranello Motorsport, Lago Racing, and Consolidated Chem. Co. will spearhead an Australian assault on outright victory. While foreign privateer outfits Clearwater Racing (Malaysia) and United Autosports (Britain, United States) will also field single car Ferrari 458 and, Audi R8 LMS entries respectively, each with factory-afforded customer assistance.

Having enlisted the services of ace GT pairing, Allan Simonsen (Denmark) and Dominik Farnbacher (Germany), in addition local touring car legend John Bowe, Melbourne-based outfit Maranello motorsport has secured a lineup bearing considerable pace and circuit knowledge. With the squad fielding proven package in Ferrari’s 458 Italia, Maranello Motorsport emerges a significant contender for outright victory.

Lago Racing's JBS-sponsored Reiter Lamborghini LP600 GT3 challenger. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

Queensland-based team, Lago Racing has also increased their level of commitment for the 2012 event. Following the achievement of a class (B) victory at the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour, Lago Racing sought out proven GT3 machinery in the form of Reiter’s Lamborghini LP600 challenger. With the team having enlisted the services of talented local (V8SC development series) driver, David Russell, Lago Racing remains one of multiple local entries in contention for a well-placed finish.

The Reiter Lamborghini LP560 GT3 entry of McConville, Kox, Huglin, and Searle. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

Fielding the second of two (local) Lamborghini entries, Consolidated Chemical Co. will also enter a Reiter-developed package, the LP560 GT3. With a squad consisting of V8SC endurance driver, Cameron McConville and, endurance ace/Reiter factory driver, Peter Kox, the Ted Huglin-led outfit is one of many entries favoured for a top five finish.

Entering one of two Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 entries in the 2012 event, Malaysian-based outfit, Clearwater Racing emerge as a considerable threat to both factory and privateer competitors. With significant potential in the team’s lineup of Baird, Griffin, and team-owner Mok Weng Sun, Clearwater Racing enter the Bathurst 12 Hour as one of the higher fancied privateer entries.

United AutoSports will enter a single Audi R8 LMS in the 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy United Autosports.

Following competitive showings at both Dubai and Abu Dhabi 24 Hour events, Anglo-American team United Autosports will also make their Bathurst debut at the 2012 12 Hour event. Despite having recently purchased a pair of Mclaren MP4-12C chassis, the squad continues its (customer) relationship with Audi, via entering a single R8 LMS for drivers Patterson, Li, and Yu.

Renowned for star-powered appearances elsewhere, United Autosports will likely face difficulty with a lesser professionally (and, in regards to circuit knowledge) experienced lineup.

With the aforementioned entries fielding PRO/AM lineups, albeit in varying forms (as stipulated by event regulations), each outfit’s success relies on their ability to manage the capabilities of their respective designated (team-owner) amateur drivers. For certain outfits, this will no doubt present a significant hurdle. While others will likely approach the scenario with minimal difficulty.

Although represented to a lesser extent than in previous years, production-touring runners will collectively represent seven manufacturers (Holden, Ford, BMW, Mazda, Mini, SEAT, Subaru) across the event’s three touring categories. With BMW and Subaru entries emerging as likely favourites within their respective categories.

Despite a reported boycotting of the event having been coordinated by certain members of the local production-touring contingent (claimed to be the result of conflicting viewpoints concerning the event’s ethos), there remains a core group of confirmed, local touring teams, committed to providing an entertaining race for spectators.

VLN/ADAC/Euro-GT Open news.

In a recent announcement, Peugeot motorsport has revealed plans to bring the RCZ HDi platform to the 2010 Nürburgring 24 hour classic, this May, as part of the manufacturers 200 year birthday celebrations. Fitted with a 2.0L HDi-FAP engine, the RCZ is capable of producing an impressive 147kW/200hp of power.

Peugeot RCZ Rear

Peugeot RCZ HDi.

The French marque will be represented by two RCZ HDi’s, supported by separate teams whose identities are not yet known.

After recently unveiling the GT3 variant of their SLS AMG coupe, German Automaker Mercedes unveiled additional plans today which will see the car participating in the final three rounds of the 2010 VLN series, providing Mercedes the ability to prove itself against long time rivals Audi/BMW, as well as Porsche and Ferrari.

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3 Coupe

Image courtesy of Insideline

While Norbert Haug (Head of Mercedes Motorsport)  has made his opinions on the Nürburgring 24H event clear in the past, having referred to the event as ‘a fair’, a return to the green hell would now seem much more likely for the iconic marque.

In other news,  five-time Nürburgring 24 hour champion, Marcel Tiemann has announced his 2010 plans. The German driver will continue to drive for the Manthey team in both the VLN and Nürburgring 24 hour events, alongside team mates Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard, and Romain Dumas.

Marcel Fassler

Image courtesy of Autobild.

In addition to this, Tiemann will also compete in the International GT Open championship with Team Phoenix Racing, partnering Jim Matthews in the Audi R8-LMS.