More famous for its annual 1000 kilometre V8 Supercar race, the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst, Australia has made its mark as a premier 12-hour endurance venue.
Featuring a class field of FIA GT3 cars with a highly international entry list, 2013’s instalment offered a full spectrum of triumphs and tragedies that captivated viewers in a way only top-flight endurance racing can.
After 268 laps (1041 miles/1665km) of the precipitous mountain circuit, the Erebus Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 of Germans Alex Rollof, Thomas Jaeger and sportscar ace Bernd Schneider emerged victorious, one lap ahead of the Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 GT3 driven by New Zealander Craig Baird, Irishman Matt Griffin and Singaporean team owner Mok Weng Sung. The final step on the podium was taken by the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Klark Quinn, Shane van Gisbergen and Mat Kingsley.
With a 53-strong entry list including GT4 and Production cars, Schneider started the week cautiously, qualifying sixth as he gently upped the pace with race performance in mind. ‘It’s such a difficult place,’ he explained. ‘On Friday, we could not learn the circuit because of the traffic. You can't learn the braking points if you always have cars in front of you.
‘From my first race stint I was really happy because the balance was very good and very consistent, so I could push hard. Once we had heavy rain I was not driving, it was more like surfing down the hill and I was really happy that I could get back in the pits.
‘We have achieved something really special, especially since it’s my first time here and such a difficult race,’ he concluded.
Similar to Spa-Francorchamps, rain is often a factor at Mount Panorama and so it proved with a torrential downpour in the penultimate hour, allied to gale-force winds. In all, 15 stints behind the pace-car were required, 43 laps in total.
It was during a rain-induced restart that the second Erebus Mercedes SLS, the pole-winning car of Aussies Tim Slade, Lee Holdsworth and Peter Hackett, damaged its steering in a clash with a backmarker and fell from second place to an eventual sixth.
While none of them finished the race, Mercedes F1 test driver Brendon Hartley (Audi R8 LMS ultra), Dutch Le Mans veteran Peter Cox (Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560 GT3) and former Ferrari Formula One stars Mika Salo (Ferrari 458 GT3) and Ivan Capelli (Corvette Z06-R GT3) further added to the event’s standing, while exceptional online streaming and commentary from the Radio Le Mans team presented a modern-world viewership alternative that should ensure the event’s future.