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.

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United AutoSports confirms Audi-powered Bathurst 12 Hour Assault

No stranger to endurance; United AutoSports entered three R8 LMS GT3s in the 2011 Spa 24 hour event. - Image courtesy United AutoSports.

No stranger to endurance; United AutoSports entered three R8 LMS GT3s in the 2011 Spa 24 hour event. - Image courtesy United AutoSports.

Anglo-American sportscar squad, United AutoSports today announced details concerning their 2012 season programme. Within which, the team released details of plans to enter Australia’s Bathurst 12 hour event, in addition to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi 24 hour events.

News of the team’s continued utilisation of Audi’s R8 LMS GT3 chassis may come as a surprise to some. Given the squad’s well-documented dealings with McLaren, and previously announced plans to enter the marque’s recently released MP4-12C GT3 chassis in the 2012 Blancpain Endurance series. Despite this, the team has confirmed a single R8 LMS entry for the aforementioned events.

Details of expected driver lineups for each event are yet to be announced. Based on past appearances, and the team’s operating ethos, a lineup of high-profile runners is considered a reasonable expectation.

United AutoSports’ current competition portfolio spans British GT, FIA GT3, and Blancpain Endurance series, in addition to select endurance events across the world. The outfit most recently competed in the American Le Mans Series’ 14th annual Petit Le Mans event, securing an  LMP2 class podium on its series, and LMP competition debut, with an OAK Pescarolo-Judd package.

The British-based outfit’s announcement of participation in the 2012 running of the Bathurst 12 hour arrives following the confirmation of multiple high calibre entries, ranging from Audi factory affiliate, Phoenix racing, to local privateer competitors, Maranello Motorsport. Additional manufacturers are reportedly evaluating participation at present.

The following statements were provided (in relation to the announcement) during an interview with Speed.com reporter, John Dagys:

UAS CEO and team owner, Zak Brown:

“We couldn’t find a better way of moving into our third year as a racing team than by competing in such classics as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bathurst; three exciting endurance events which are considered a ‘must do’ for any aspiring racer. It’s also a fitting way to continue our relationship with Audi into 2012.”

UAS Managing Director/co-owner, Richard Dean: 

“United Autosports is a 52-week a year business and the goal is to have the top GT racing team in the world. In only two years United Autosports has built a reputation in which top drivers want to race with us, and now we’re offering them the opportunity to compete with our highly-motivated team, which is competing worldwide.

We want to have a dominant presence at every circuit we go to and these three exciting classic events are next on our calendar.”

ILMC: Zhuhai Entry List.

 

Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Logo.

 

Provisional entry listings for the third and final round of the 2010 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup have are now available. What began as a field of 27 runners has now been reduced to a mere 24, after the withdrawal of the Atlas E-FX Saleen, and MIK Racing’s two Lola-Judd coupes. Although now sporting a slightly diminished field, the event is by no means short of quality contenders.

The Audi vs Peugeot battle continues in LMP1, although the French marque need only finish the race with both entries in order to seal the maiden ILMC LMP1 teams and manufacturers title. Both factories approach the race bearing slightly altered driver lineups as a result of differing driver commitments. Privateer flavour will be provided by fan favourites, Drayson Racing and Tokai University.

Having been the only P2 team to confirm participation in all three rounds of the ILMC, OAK Racing is only required to complete the race to confirm its P2 title. After the surprise forfeit of MIK’s two Lola-Judd entries, the French outfit will be left to run it’s own race alongside the sole Formula Le Mans entry of Hope Polevision.

The battle of the factories continues in GT2, the now dominant GT category yielding works entries from Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, and Jaguar teams. Porsche’s reputation will be defended by two-time Le Mans series champions, Felbermayr-Proton, with assistance from ProSpeed Competition. Regular LMS rivals AF-Corse and CRS will provide Ferrari presence and, flying the sole BMW flag, Schnitzer will field a single entry. After a surprise appearance at the 1000KM of Silverstone,  the Lamborghini Gallardo of Gulf Team First will also be in attendance.

Although Ferrari possess a points advantage in the race for the GT2 manufacturers title, the battle for honours is still very much alive. With a slim possibility remaining for Porsche or BMW teams to seize the first ILMC accolades for their respective marques.

Having successfully completed over nine hours under race conditions during the Petit Le Mans event, Porsche’s GT3R Hybrid will make the trip to Zhuhai for its second ILMC appearance. Capable of competing with GT2 runners, the GT3R Hybrid will compete in a class of its own once more (GT-Exp.), setting out demonstrate the advantages of Hybrid technology alongside regular GT counterparts. Porsche has committed the services of factory drivers (and recently crowned ALMS GT2 series champions) Jörg Bergmeister and Pat Long to provide the Hybrid its Chinese debut.

In addition to the inclusion of Porsche’s GT3R Hybrid, the ACO has also allowed the inclusion of GT3 homologated chassis on a strictly one-off basis, in order to increase grid numbers. The presence of both United AutoSports and KK Performance squads will mark the Audi R8 LMS’ debut appearance in an ACO sanctioned event. Team Hong Kong Racing has also committed an Aston Martin DBRS9 entry.

Entry listings can be seen in full below:

LMP1

  • 1 Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP – Sébastien Bourdais / Simon Pagenaud
  • 2 Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP – Stéphane Sarrazin / Franck Montagny
  • 7 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R15+ – Tom Kristensen / Allan McNish
  • 8 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R15+ – Rinaldo Capello / Romain Dumas
  • 11 Drayson Racing – Lola-Judd Coupe – Paul Drayson / Jonny Cocker
  • 23 Tokai University – Courage Oreca-YGK – Shigekazu Wakisaka / Shogo Mitsuyama

LMP2

  • 24 OAK Racing – Pescarolo Judd – Jacques Nicolet / Frédéric Da Rocha / Patrice Lafargue

Formula Le Mans

  • 47 Hope Polevision Racing – Oreca-FLM – Luca MORO / TBA

GT1

  • 50 Larbre Competition – Saleen S7R – Roland Berville / Julien Canal
  • 69 JLOC – Lamborghini Murcielago – Iiri HIROYUKI / TBA

GT2

  • 75 ProSpeed Competition – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (997) – Richard Westbrook / Darryl O’Young
  • 77 Team Felbermayr-Proton – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (997) Marc Lieb / Richard Lietz
  • 78 BMW Team Schnitzer – BMW E92 M3 – Jörg Müller / Dirk Werner
  • 81 JaguarRSR – Jaguar XKRS – Marc Goossens / Tommi Drissi / Paul Gentilozzi
  • 82 JaguarRSR – Jaguar XKRS – TBA / TBA
  • 88 Team Felbermayr-Proton – PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR (997) – Gianluca Roda / Christian Ried / Martin Ragginger
  • 90 CRS Racing – Ferrari F430 GT – Pierre Ehret / Phil Quaife / Andrew Kirkaldy
  • 95 AF Corse – Ferrari F430 GT – Giancarlo Fisichella / Gianmaria Bruni
  • 99 Gulf Team First – Lamborghini Gallardo – Fabien Giroix / Roald Goethe / Frédéric Fatien

GT-Experimental

  • 92 Porsche AG – Porsche GT3R Hybrid – Jörg Bergmeister / Patrick Long

GTC

  • 91 Team Hong Kong Racing – Aston Martin DBRS9 – Philippe Ma / Marchy Lee
  • 96 United AutoSports – Audi R8 LMS – Danny Watts / Richard Meins
  • 97 United AutoSports – Audi R8 LMS –  Alain Li / Henri Richard
  • 98 KK Performance – Audi R8 LMS – Marchy Li / Alexander Yoong / Matthew Marsh

ILMC AsLMS Zhuhai Poster - Features R15+/908 in foreground. Background featres GT3R Hybrid and CRS F430.

ILMC: United AutoSports Confirm Zhuhai Participation.

United AutoSports aim to participate in future ILMC events with their GT3-spec Audi R8 LMS.

United AutoSports aim to participate in future ILMC events with their GT3-spec Audi R8 LMS.

Having only been in existence for less than 12 months, United AutoSports today released details of the next step in its ever expanding programme. The team, known for their exploits in both the FIA GT3/British GT series and, more recently their spectacular third in-class, fourth overall finish at the Spa 24 Hours, has today unveiled plans to participate in the Chinese event of the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.

The Zak Brown-led squad will commit a two car effort to the Zhuhai race, with the drivers of the first car already confirmed as Frenchmen, Jean Richard (of ALMS fame) and Alain li. The driver pairing for the second entry is expected to be confirmed at some time later this month. The European-based squad is the first, and only competitor based outside of Asia to confirm entries for the event.

Team owner Zak Brown had the following to say in light of the announcements: “I’m very excited about our new team racing in Asia in United Autosports’ first year of competition. Having contested the full FIA GT3 European Championship, the Spa 24 Hours and a couple of British GT Championship events, to now get an entry in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup finalé is just amazing and underlines our desire and our commitment to GT sports car racing.”

As the standard ACO class structure does not accomodate such entries, the ACO has borrowed the use of the GTC class name in order to accommodate GT3 participants. Thus the team’s weapon of choice, Audi’s R8 LMS GT3, will compete within this temporary category alongside fellow GT3-spec participants.

When questioned as to whether the inclusion of such a category would continue in future ACO-sanctioned events, ACO Sporting Director, Vincent Beaumesnil responded with the following statement: “At this stage, for sure, it’s a one shot. “Maybe in the future for other race events we’ll be open, but there’s no question. We won’t introduce these cars in all of the Le Mans events.”