International drivers and international teams are nothing new at the Bathurst 12-Hour. However since the introduction of the GT3 category in 2011, the international contingent has grown dramatically. For the 2015 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour, a record 46 international drivers (from 18 different countries) and 19 international teams made the February pilgrimage to Mount Panorama. Rather than making up the numbers, these international recruits dominated proceedings. First, second, third and fourth across the line were all international teams, sporting 100 per cent international driver line-ups!
Looking down the entry list reveals a bevy of motorsport royalty. There’re F1 stars (Mika Salo, Markus Winkelhock, Ivan Capelli and Andrea Montermini), Le Mans Champions (David Brabham, Guy Smith, Stephane Ortelli and Oliver Gavin), Spa 24-Hour winners (Laurens Vanthoor, Maximillian Buhk and Christopher Haase) and Bathurst 12-Hour victors (Mika Salo, along with Darryl O’Young and Christopher Mies, who partnered each other to victory in 2011 and 2012).
Other notable victories amassed by 2015’s troop of internationals include the Blancpain and FIA GT/GT3 Championship, 24-Hours of Nurburgring, World LMGTE Endurance Championship, American Le Mans Championship, Porsche Supercup, World Touring Cars, British Touring Cars, ADAC GT Masters and Dubai 24-Hour. Any GT event anywhere in the world would be proud of attracting such a megastar line-up. Listen to their comments at liqui-moly.com.au.
This remarkable level of experience and accomplishment extended to the record number of international teams that headed down under to conquer Australia’s motorsport mecca.
For the first time, the Bathurst 12-Hour featured three factory-backed works teams; Nissan (Nismo), Audi (Phoenix Racing) and Bentley (M-Sport). Looking at their stats, the trio are formidable competitors – which was reflected in the final results. Established in 1984, Nismo is the world-renowned motorsport arm of the Nissan Motorsport Company and have an illustrious motorsport ledger. Recent victories include the 2014 LMP2 at Le Mans and the 2014 Super GT Championship. Phoenix Racing are two-time Bathurst 12-Hour champions and two-time winners of the 24 Hours of Nurburgring – as well as DTM Champions. UK-based M-Sport have two WRC Manufacturers Championships (2006 and 2007) to their credit.
While not official factory teams, a number of other internationals enjoy close manufacturer ties. Standouts include Clearwater Racing, three-time (and reigning) Asian GT Champions; the unusually-named Craft Bamboo, a privateer outfit that now has a Bathurst 12-Hour podium to go with their third outright in the 2013 Dubai 24 Hour and second in the GT Asia series; AF Course, who from seven Le Mans starts have amassed an impressive two firsts, two seconds and two thirds with a series of GT2 and LMGTE Ferraris. Those AF Course guys sure know how to win.
The popularity of GT3 racing is exploding and it’s not hard to see why. In 2014, variants of the Audi R8 Ultra GT3 competed in 240 events around the globe! Combine this with the world-wide exposure the 12-Hour generates, it’s no wonder such a vast array or world-class drivers and teams are all itching to add a Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour trophy to their cabinet. The future for Australia’s International Endurance event is looking very healthy. I for one can’t wait!