Porsche - Blue Hell. The 12 hours of Bathurst.

Blue Hell. The 12 hours of Bathurst.

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As a spectator, nothing can quite prepare you for an experience like Bathurst. Legendary around the world for its breathtaking beauty, punishing climate, and hyper enthusiastic crowd, there truly is no comparison in endurance racing. Yes Le Mans is grueling, yes Daytona is lightning quick, yes Spa is punishing on cars, but no single track combines all of these elements and more to deliver the spectacle of Bathurst.

3 hours outside of Sydney by car, the tiny town of Bathurst New South Wales was incorporated during the Australian gold rush in the 1850s. The first race ever held at Mount Panorama Circuit was the 1938 Australian Grand Prix, which set the foundation for a long and storied history of racing, leading up to the birth of the Bathurst 1000km race, which has been held in the same format every year since 1973. Beginning in 2011 the Bathurst 12 Hour, the GT3 derivative of the Australian Touring Car 1000km became FIA certified, and became part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2016.

It’s this legendary history in the world of motorsport that has drawn devotees and drivers alike down under to put themselves to the test at one of the most challenging tracks in the world. Described frequently by drivers as a mix of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca, and once dubbed by German Driver Maro Engel as the “Blue Hell”. Going up the mountain makes Eau Rouge look like a gentle ramp. Passing areas rival that of the tightest Street courses, creating nail biting moments throughout any race, in what Black Swan Racing Porsche Team Owner Timothy Pappas endearingly referred to as Monaco in The Outback: “There’s just nothing else like it, where on earth can you experience downhill corner speed in such a close walled environment as the sun rises red over the desert?”

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What proves most challenging for our Porsche factory drivers is that they quite literally finish Daytona and then head directly to the airport to fly around the world to Australia: “It’s really hard on the body, you finish one of the most physically demanding races of the year in Florida, your body is in shock, and then you have to get onto a 17+ hour series of flights to begin training for one of the most mechanically difficult races of the year.” Explained Patrick Long, who would go on to place second in class as a member once again of Competition Motorsports. He’s not wrong about the race being mechanically difficult, of the 50 cars that began the race at 5:45am, only 32 would reach the finish line, a fact that undoubtedly contributed to the record attendance in the audience.

“Aussie race fans have quite a reputation at Bathurst,” explained Matt Campbell, “they certainly rank among the most, shall we say, passionate in the world.” Which you’d have to be we suppose, to stand on top of a mountain hours before sunrise to witness the pitch black start. Romain Dumas agreed: “It is my first time racing here, but if their reputation precedes them I expect them to be incredibly cool.”

At the end of the day Porsche earned a well fought podium, consisting of Black Swan Racing’s Marc Lieb, Timothy Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz taking the Overall 3rd position and a Pro/Am Class win, although it was widely discussed that the two competitors ahead of them were utilizing rather unorthodox fuel saving techniques on the downhill portions of the track towards the end. If the race had not ended under a Red Flag the results seen by Australian fans may have looked a bit different. That said, Porsche kicked off the start of the Intercontinental GT Challenge season with a strong message with 4 of the top 6 teams piloting a 911 GT3R.

Text: Ted Gushue (Petrolicious)
Pictures: Porsche Newsroom, Ted Gushue

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