Black Falcon to lead Mercedes charge at Bathurst 12 Hour.

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

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

Preliminary details concerning another planned high-profile effort targeting Australia’s Bathurst 12 hour, involving esteemed German endurance outfit, Team Black Falcon have begun to emerge via multiple sources affiliated with the event.

The Kelberg-based team, now a renowned Mercedes factory affiliate and customer sport operation has (as signified by the presence of two entries on the event’s provisional entry list) recently confirmed plans which will see  the squad field two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 entries in the 2012 edition of the 12 hour race.

Widely known for their exploits within Germany’s domestic GT and endurance series, the squad is no stranger to endurance; with a competition portfolio spanning both VLN and ADAC GT championships, in addition to efforts at Spa, Nürburgring and Dubai 24 hour events under the AMG banner.

Black Falcon’s participation at the 2012 running of the 12 hour race represents the securing of another high-profile, manufacturer-supported effort by event organisers. With Audi having already confirmed their intention to return via factory-affiliate team, Phoenix Racing. An announcement which was later followed by subsequent confirmations from privateer squads Maranello Motorsport, and United AutoSports.

Details of the team’s driver lineups for the event have not yet been revealed in full. It has however been confirmed that Dutch driver (and Black Falcon, VLN regular), Jeroen Bleekemolen (of past Le Mans, LMS, Porsche SuperCup, A1GP fame) will join the outfit for the 12 hour race. Renowned driving coach/instructor, Rob Wilson has also been confirmed within the team’s second entry.

Local Mercedes customer sport operation, Erebus Racing have, despite signaling a desire to enter the 2012 running of the event, not yet confirmed details of their rumoured participation. It remains unclear as to whether Black Falcon’s participation will operate independently or, in collaboration with Erebus Racing’s as yet unconfirmed efforts.

Further information concerning Black Falcon’s planned Bathurst 12 hour campaign is yet to be revealed.

Highlights of the team’s efforts at the 2011 Spa 24 hour race can be seen below:

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Simonsen, Farnbacher to command Ferrari assault on 2012 Bathurst 12 hour.

Hankook Team Farnbacher's Ferrari 458 of Simonsen/Farnbacher at the 2011 Nürburgring 24 Hour event. - Image courtesy HankookTire.

Hankook Team Farnbacher’s Ferrari 458 of Simonsen/Farnbacher at the 2011 Nürburgring 24 Hour event. – Image courtesy HankookTire.

Following the confirmation of multiple high-profile teams and driver lineups in recent weeks, the 2012 running of Australia’s Bathurst 12 hour event has received a further addition to its growing number of provisional entries.

In an interview with Australia’s Speedcafe.com, Danish driver/endurance regular, Alan Simonsen has revealed details of his planned return to the 2012 event with Australian team, Maranello Motorsport. Simonsen also provided information regarding the team’s planned driver lineup.

On this occasion Simonsen will be partnered by regular Le Mans series driving partner, Dominik Farnbacher. In addition to Le Mans series duties, Farnbacher’s current portfolio sees the young German compete in the ADAC championship, and select endurance events in both the US and Europe.

Having achieved podiums at both Le Mans and Nürburgring 24 hour events in recent years, the duo are well-versed in the art of endurance. The pairing will be partnered by Australian drivers John Bowe (past V8 Supercar driver/multiple Bathurst 1000 champion), and local gentleman driver, Peter Edwards.

Following a sixth-placed finish in the 2011 edition of the race with Ferrari’s aging, Kessel-built F430 GT3, Maranello Motorsport will field a 2011-spec, Ferrari 458 GT3 chassis in the 2012 running of the event.

The Melbourne-based squad will compete against factory entries of Audi, and potentially other marques, in a bid to secure outright honours amongst a small, but highly-competitive field of GT3 runners.

Providing further testament to the event’s increasing international allure, confirmation of the talented duo’s planned Bathurst assault affords greater substance to a growing list of both local and international entries for the 2012 edition of the race.

Simonsen provided the following statement regarding the announcement to Speedcafe.com: 

“It’s clear that this year, the teams going for the win pretty well ran three professional drivers, so you’ve got to put a strong team together to be in with a shot.

The 458 is a new spec GT3 car, so it should match the Audis that were there this year – I certainly don’t think you’ll see them running away with it again.

Audi is obviously strongly behind it, and we’re expecting Mercedes to give a fair bit of support to next year’s race. I think it’ll grow and grow – I think it’s going to be a big thing.”

Post Sebring race wrap.

In the weeks approaching the 2010 Sebring 12H, the average Sportscar enthusiast was more or likely involved in an argument over Audis presence at the legendary race. While Audi weren’t present (in a professional/race-prepared capacity), that didn’t stop record numbers of fans from flocking to the Southern Florida located circuit, with the expectation of seeing a race.

With the race now run and won, we take a look at the highlights of what turned out to be a fairly decent (and quite eventful) Sebring 12 hour.

The opening ten minutes saw the lead Peugeot take to an early lead (no surprises here), while the second did battle with the Lola-AMR, and Drayson racing entries. Running at what seemed to be slightly off the pace of the other P1 cars, the AMR-Lola (then driven by Fernandez) surrendered third position to well paced Emmanuele Pirro in the Drayson Lola-Judd. Shortly after, Pirro managed to take second place from an unsuspecting Sebastian Bourdais, in what turned out to be one of the highlights of the race. Anybody listening to Radio Le Mans’ audio stream at the time would have heard the trademark Hindhaugh scream of excitement.

Peugeot AMR battle.

Image courtesy of Speedtv.com/Marshall Pruett.

LMP2 started off as predicted. With reigning series champions Patron Highcroft surging out to an early lead. Followed by the Cytosport Spyder, and Dyson Lola-Mazda. Dysons’ car suffered engine related issues in the opening hours of the race, effectively ruining any chance of a win. The big surprise came after the 9 hour mark, after consistent running at close to P1 speeds, Highcroft suffered mechanical difficulties. Brabham hastily retreated to the pits, allowing the #6 Cytosport entry (which would later go on to win the race)  to recover the 5 lap margin drawn out by Highcroft driver trio.

BMW Corvette Risi chicanes

Image courtesy of Speedtv.com/Marshall Pruett.

The GT2 battle was heated from the moment the green flag was waved, with Henzler taking first place off Bergmeister within the opening moments of the race. Bergmeister later reclaimed the class lead, followed by the #62 Risi car,  and the #3/4 Corvettes after the lesser developed Falkens on Henzler’s car began to to wear. Something that may have come as a surprise to some (an expectation by many) was the early departure of the #75 JaguarRSR entry. After the much touted return of Jaguar to competitive sportscar racing, this was a huge disappointment.

As the race progressed, the drama began to unfold. The #3/4 Corvettes collided on pit road (in a very Peugeot-esque moment), effectively ending Corvettes hope of GT2 victory. Doug Fehan (Manager of Corvette Racing) later cited a radio miscommunication as the cause of the collision.  Meanwhile, not pushing for outright pace, the Peugeots continued to lap flawlessly, leading 1-2 overall. The Lola-AMR continued in third place, in much the same manner, opting to preserve fuel and tyres.

P1, P2, LMPC run to turn six.

Image courtesy of Speedtv.com/Marshall Pruett.

Later in the race, the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche suffered another cruel blow (in a history of injustices) when a tyre broke free from the #17 car, damaging the rear-left of the #45. Bergmeister was required to drive a complete lap with a deflated tyre and enter a closed pit area under the yellow flag. Series rules stipulate that no repair work can be completed on a car while the track is under a caution period. The damage was surprisingly minimal and repaired quickly. Unfortunately the #45 car exited pit lane several laps down on the class leaders, and out of the running for victory. The car finished two laps behind the class-winning Risi car, after some spirited driving by Bergmeister, Long, and Lieb.

Setting the pace earlier during test sessions, and in qualifying, BMW ran a relatively clean race (barring some minor incidents involving the #90 car). Mueller managed to spin the #90 car on the last lap, gifting teammate Werner second place in the dying moments of the race. Mueller brought the car home in third place, citing tyre/steering problems as a result of the crash. The #45/44 Flying Lizard cars finished a modest fourth and fifth. A decent effort considering the challenges faced by both cars through the event.

Risi Competizione took their third Sebring GT2 victory, in what is becoming an enduro tradition (on both sides of the Atlantic). Further cementing their status as the team to beat in any event over 10 hours. Drivers Melo, Bruni, and Kaffer managed to maintain a solid pace throughout the 12 hours, making few mistakes and avoiding the mishaps that plagued their competitors.

The LMPC class was, for the most part, a disappointment. With half the GT2 field finishing in front of the class winning car, it’s difficult to take the class seriously. It was expected the car would face technical problems after the 6 hour mark. Having only competed in short sprint races in a cooler European climate. The combination of harsh Sebring heat and bumpy terrain saw most of the cars pitting early with similar failures. The #55 Level5 entry led for what seemed like the entirety of the race, taking the checkered flag with Bouchut at the wheel.

To the surprise of many, GTC ended up providing some great viewing. With the recent addition of some seasoned-pros (Leitzinger, Diaz, Keen etc) to the category, the 997 Cup based-class gave the crowd something to cheer about (in between acting as mobile chicanes for the other classes). The #81 entry of Leitzinger, Gonzalez and Keen took class honours.

By the later stages of the race, Peugeot was only required to keep the car off the walls to take a maiden 12H victory, and did so in 1-2 fashion. The Lola-AMR placed third after a moderately paced, trouble free race. Finishing a modest three laps behind the diesel powerhouse. The #6 MuscleMilk Cytosport team of Graf, Picket, and Maassen finished fourth overall and first in class, completing an incident free race. A solid effort for any privateer.

That was Sebring 2010, and it only gets better from here on in.