IT’S certainly not the way they would have wanted it to happen, but Audi has broken its run of outs to win the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
The No.37 Team WRT Audi of Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor was declared the winner after a horrifying crash with 20 mintues remaining forced the race to be red flagged.
Bryce Fullwood’s No.93 MARC Focus and Ash Walsh’s No.69 Audi crashed at Sulman Park, the latter’s car stopped sideways across the track when it was then struck at high speed by John Martin’s No.19 Mercedes.
All three drivers got out of their cars and were taken to the medical centre for checks.
The debris field left by the three shattered cars was too extensive to be cleaned up in time for the race to be restarted.
The crash robbed the race of a tense finish with the leading contenders all sweating on fuel economy in a bid to make it to the end of the race without another pit stop.
Frijns was being chased by the No.75 Mercedes with Jamie Whincup at the wheel, with Laurens Vanthoor 27 seconds away in the No.991 Craft Bamboo Porsche.
“I don’t think we would’ve made it if it was full-out green, so we were hoping for a Safety Car,” Frijns said.
“Eventually it came but for the big crash, so we hope everybody is alright.”
The first car that was certain to make it home on fuel was Romain Dumas in the No.911 Porsche, which would eventually be classified sixth.
However, the Craft Bamboo squad lost their podium finish when they were pinged 30 seconds by the stewards for Vanthoor exceeding the maximum driving time, handing third place to the No.540 Black Swan Porsche with Marc Lieb at the wheel.
It also the Black Swan team the honours for the best Pro-Am entry, Lieb sharing the car with Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz.
With the race results being backdated to the last full lap completed before the red flag, Walsh’s team earnt the victory in the Class A Amateur class with its classification in 10th place enough to give he and co-drivers James Koundouris, Theo Koundouris and Duvashen Padayachee the win.
It was a day which saw 16 Safety Car periods and several big crashes, the most serious involving veteran racer Andrew Bagnall on the 42nd lap.
The 70-year-old also crashed at Sulman Park and was taken to Orange Hospital, where he was diagnosed with broken ribs and a broken right pelvis.
Several leading contenders threw away their chances of victory with mistakes or mechanical failures.
Pole man Chaz Mostert roared into an early lead, checking out to a 45-second margin before his first pit stops. The heat sapped his BMW of some of its performance, while a penalty for a restart infraction saw him trying to fight his way back through the field when he was involved in a four-car crash at Forrest’s Elbow.
Both Jamec-Pem Audis looked poised to win the race before a crash eliminated the No.22 car shared by Garth Tander, while the No.74 car had a driveline failure while leading with two hours remaining.
The Grove Racing No.4 Porsche overcame illness for Brenton Grove and the late inclusion of Daniel Gaunt to claim the Class B honours for the duo, Steven Grove and Ben Barker with 17th place.
Tony Longhurst claimed the Class C victory in what will be the last race of the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner’s career in 23rd outright aboard the No.30 BMW he shared with young guns Aaron Seton and Matt Brabham.
Relive all the action with our live blog below, or scroll further for hour-by-hour reports and results.
IF YOU CAN’T SEE THE BLOG BELOW, PLEASE CLICK HERE
THE list of contenders is whittling down as the race reaches the pointy end, just eight cars remaining on the lead lap with two hours to go.
The latest to fall is the No.74 Jamec-Pem Audi which rolled to a stop while leading the race, a disbelieving Markus Winkelhock beating on the steering wheel after an apparent driveline failure.
“We were in a position to win that race for sure,” a devastated Christopher Mies, Winkelhock’s co-driver, told 7.
Also gone is the polesitting No.43 BMW of Chaz Mostert and the No.17 Bentley, both involved in a four-car crash which sent the Class B No.40 Porsche into the wall and saw the No.911 Craft Bamboo Porsche have a lucky escape while they were scrapping for third place.
“I’m 100 per cent gutted to have crashed the car when we were in such a good position,” Mostert said.
“I thought if I could clear a couple of cars I’d be on my way, but it didn’t work.
“I took a risky option, I tried to take advantage of some lapped cars, and there just wasn’t enough room for three cars. It was an aggressive approach, and it didn’t stick.”
The net result is that the No.991 Manthey Racing Porsche leads the race from the No.55 Strakka Mercedes which counts Cameron Waters among its crew, while the No.12 Ice Break Porsche is third with Alex Davison at the wheel – the question now is who needs to make one more stop for fuel and who doesn’t.
Reigning winner Jamie Whincup is in the thick of the fight, the 2017 Supercars champion in fifth place and expected to drive the No.75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes to the end of the race.
JUST 12 cars remain on the lead lap with a third of the race to go, Kelvin Van der Linde’s mistake taking a genuine threat out of contention.
Race leader Markus Winkelhock had passed the No.95 MARC Focus, which had Bryce Fullwood at the wheel, over Skyline, and Van der Linde came unstuck trying to follow suit through the Esses.
“Going through Skyline there was some traffic ahead and I went off-line to try and overtake him and there was just no grip,” he told 7.
“I guess that’s a bit of Bathurst experience I was missing today. It was a bit silly thinking back, but you can’t change it now.
“We were looking really strong, the car was flawless.”
The car eventually returned to the race an hour after the incident.
The crash elevated the No.12 Porsche with Matt Campbell at the controls into second place, while quiet achievers Objective Racing had the No.11 McLaren – the marque’s sole remaining contender – sitting third with Jaxon Evans at the wheel until a pit stop on Lap 180.
That elevated the No.17 Bentley to third – the Continental briefly led the race earlier in the hour after a restart – ahead of Raffaele Marciello in the No.75 Mercedes he shares with Supercars champion Jamie Whincup.
The repeated Safety Cars – we’re now up to 12, eight shy of the race record – have mixed up the order, with groups of cars pitting depending on when the cautions fit with their fuel schedules.
A spectacular crash brought out the 11th Safety Car, contact from the No.21 Class B Porsche sending the No.88 Ginetta spearing into the tyres at Griffins Bend. Stewards handed the Porsche a five minute penalty over the incident.
AUDI moved into the lead as the halfway point loomed, the Jamec-Pem cars locking down the top two spots.
The race is now up to 10 Safety Car periods, the latest when Paul Morris’s MARC II Mustang caught fire coming out of The Chase.
Two others came through clashes between slower cars and Class A runners.
The No.23 Porsche spun into the wall at Sulman Park after appearing to have had contact with a Lamborghini, while the No.13 BMW, third in Class C at the time, crashed out at Reid Park after side-by-side contact with Alex Davison in the No.12 Porsche, Davison lucky to catch a massive slide.
BMW’s two leading entries are still right in the thick of the fight, the No.100 car closing in on second-placed Tander as the hour wrapped up, while Augusto Farfus sits sixth in the pole-sitting No.43 car.
The Porsches are also marching up the order as the day goes on, Earl Bamber sitting fourth in the No.911 Craft Bamboo car, while Davison sits fifth after his earlier scare to lead the Pro-Am class.
Bentley’s hold on the lead proved brief after the No.17 was judged to have jumped too early on a Safety Car restart, the resulting penalty dropping the car to eighth place at the halfway point.
McLaren’s hopes of victory are down to just one car, the No.11 Objective Racing still on the lead lap.
The No.58 McLaren sat inside the top five after four hours, but Craig Lowndes soon noticed the engine temperature starting to rise.
“I’ve been told about the McLaren that if it gets hot it retards the engine and it loses power, which is what it did,” he told 7.
The car fell to the tail of the lead lap before Lowndes headed to the lane for the first of two long stops to try and cure the overheating woes.
“We were just trying to stay out of trouble and hand it to Shane (van Gisbergen), and we’d got to a point where we could just sit behind the Mercedes and maintain.”
The other YNA Autosport car, with Scott McLaughlin among its roster, has climbed up to 18th place after losing three laps early in the race.
ALMOST four hours after starting from the rear of the field, the No.100 SRM Team BMW took the lead of the race.
Timo Glock charged through the field in his opening double-stint, moving the car among the leaders by the time he handed over to Steven Richards.
The Bathurst veteran took over the lead just before the end of the fourth hour, but gave it up almost as quickly when a Safety Car triggered a rash of pit stops among the leaders.
The yellow flags came out when the No.18 Bentley suffered a puncture under brakes for The Chase, driver Maxime Soulet lucky not to plough into the back of the No.47 McLaren of Scott McLaughlin as he slid towards the sand trap.
It wasn’t the only Safety Car during the last two hours, with a crash by the No.44 Class B BMW and a hard hit at Hell Corner for Ash Samadi in the No.3 Audi bringing the field under caution twice.
Chaz Mostert’s hopes of victory suffered a setback after the Samadi incident, co-driver Marco Wittmann adjudged to have continued weaving after the Safety Car lights were extinguished.
The subsequent pit lane penalty dropped the car to the tail of the lead lap, although the pit stops for the leaders at the end of the hour elevated the car to third place.
Despite the disaster for Soulet, it wasn’t all bad news for Bentley. The team’s No.17 car took over the lead at the end of the fourth hour, ahead of Patrick Long in the No.12 Porsche and the No.43 BMW in third.
Craig Lowndes sat in fourth aboard the No.58 McLaren, enjoying a steady run after its troubled lead-up, while the No.47 sister car of Scott McLaughlin still sits two laps down in 21st place after radio problems cost it several laps early in the race.
Jamie Whincup is in fifth place aboard the No.75 Mercedes, which brushed the wall entering the Cutting during Kenny Habul’s stint as he tried to round up slower cars.
IT was all Chaz Mostert in the early hours of the race, the Supercars star checking out from pole position in the early laps.
Mostert built up a half-minute lead in the No.43 Schnitzer Team BMW by the time he started lapping traffic, increasing that margin to around 45 seconds before his first pit stop.
He resumed the lead once the pit stop cycle completed, Schnitzer electing to keep him in the car for a double-stint and make full use of his Mount Panorama experience on a clear track.
By the end of the second hour, Mostert had lapped all the cars up to and including 17th place.
The race got off to an abortive start, the first Safety Car coming out soon after the field took the green flag on the rolling start.
In the commotion at the back of the pack, the No.96 MARC Ford Focus of John Goodacre was punted into the barriers coming out of the Chase and never made it to the green flag.
Two more Safety Cars have slowed the race since then. The former triggered by the No.48 KTM crashing at Forrest’s Elbow.
The second came soon after the restart, Andrew Bagnall hitting the wall at Sulman Park in the No.82 Audi, the No.9 Audi of Marc Cini and the No.67 MARC II Mustang of Morgan Haber crashing out while taking evasive action.
Medical crews attended to Bagnall after the crash, the veteran New Zealander taken to hospital for checks.
Reigning Bathurst 1000 champion Luke Youlden charged into third place in the opening hour, but his drive came to naught after sunrise when his No.777 Lamborghini clashed with the Class B No.40 Porsche with Aaron Zerefos at the Cutting.
“There was some ordinary driving out there,” Youlden, with a face of stone, told 7.
The action between the Class A runners has been heated, with contact between the No.75 Mercedes and the No.56 Mercedes sending the latter glancing off the tyre barriers at Griffins Bend.