The Endurance racing season is in full swing, and Porsche is off to a strong start. Herbeth Motorsports' GT3R scored a victory at the Dubai 24 Hours, and the new 911 RSR scored a strong second place at the Daytona 24 Hours. The next major event is the Bathurst 12 Hours on February 5th, and Porsche will be represented by Walkinshaw GT3 and Competition Motorsports.
Walkinshaw GT3 descends from the now-defunct Tom Walkinshaw Racing. In addition to a 24 Hours of Le Mans victory with Porsche in 1995, the Walkinshaw name is associated with one of the most striking victories in Bathurst history. Walkinshaw GT3's GT3 R will be run by Porsche drivers Earl Bamber, Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor in the #911 car. The #12 car, fielded by Competition Motorsport will be piloted by Marc Lieb, Patrick Long and Matt Campbell.
This year's race is absolutely filled with GT3 cars across four classes. Two smaller classes, including GT4 cars and an invitational class, will also run. Including the five Porsche GT3 Cup cars in Class B, the GT3 field numbers thirty nine cars. The race has run in its current form since 2007, and the number of GT3 entrants has increased each year.
The above clip shows some of the challenges inherent in competition at Bathurst. Bathurst features two very long, relatively flat straights linking up the ends of a mountain-road segment. Laurens Vanthoor describes the track as follows:
“Mount Panorama Circuit is one of my all-time favourite racetracks. It reminds me of the Nordschleife at the Nürburgring, it’s just as fascinating and diverse, but equally as tricky. If you turn the fastest qualifying lap here and plant your car on pole position, you feel really alive. You know that you’ve pushed all the limits and have achieved something great. I’ve raced at Bathurst three times. It’s the only long distance race in the GT3 category that I’ve not yet won. So I’m totally determined to win with Porsche.”
The difficulties facing Vanthoor and the other Porsche drivers are great, and no Porsche has yet won the Australian endurance race. The 2015 and 2016 winners are both returning, in the form of Nissan Motorsports' GT-R NISMO GT3 and Tekno Autosports' Mclaren 650S GT3. The top GT3 class also includes the BMW M6 GT3, Bentley Continental GT3, Mercedes AMG GT3, Audi R8 LMS, Ferrari 488 GT3 and an older 911 GT3 R.
2017 marks the first year where cars competing in the Australian Porsche Carrera Cup are eligible for the Bathurst 12 Hours, and five cars will compete in the February event. The remaining two GT3 classes; GT3 Pro/Am and GT3 Am, include several Porsches and a slightly more diverse overall field than the flagship class. Porsche factory entry #12 will be competing in GT3 Pro/Am alongside an older Mercedes SLS AMG, plus Audi R8s and Mclarens. GT3 Am should prove extremely interesting thanks to a diverse field which includes Lamborghini Huracan GT3s, a pair of older Gallardo R-EXs, an Aston Martin V12 Vantage and more.
The GT4 and invitational classes round out the field with some very unusual entries. A bevy of Ford Focus and Mazda 3 V8s, a Dodge Viper, and an Aston Martin GT8 make up the invitational class. GT4 includes four Caymans, including two GT4s and two PRO4s, a KTM X-Bow GT4, and a pair of Ginetta G55s in their Bathurst Debut.
The race takes off on February 5th 5:45AM local time, or 1:45PM EST/4:45PM PST. The race can be streamed on the event's website for international viewers. In Australia, the race will be broadcast live in Australia on 7Mate, including the title event along with the associated Bathurst Top 10 Shootout.