It was 5:45am on Sunday morning and still dark when the 52-strong field took off into the season-opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge on the 6.213-kilometre-long storied racetrack in the state of New South Wales. The early race start and the extraordinary combination of 23 fast and slow corners, which put incredible demands on drivers, are typical for the rollercoaster circuit in Bathurst in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.
The Australian Porsche Junior Matt Campbell knows this racetrack well. Driving the 911 GT3 R run by Competition Motorsports, he put in an immaculate first stint. Although he was relegated down the field to rank 18th after one of the 16 safety car phases, he kept a cool head. With an inspired performance he made up nine positions before handing the #12 vehicle off to David Calvert-Jones, who subsequently swapped the cockpit with Marc Lieb, the overall Le Mans winner and reigning World Endurance Champion, as well as Patrick Long. They not only caught the front runners but took the lead over long stretches. Matt Campbell then took the wheel again for the final stint and, despite a drive-through penalty, put in a convincing final dash to the flag to achieve second overall for his team as well as the class victory.
Matt Campbell (911 GT3 R #12): “I’m very pleased with this result. In my last stint I made a big mistake when my foot slipped from the brake pedal and I hit an opponent. But I was lucky. It was my first race with the 911 GT3 R and this team. They all supported me brilliantly and I was able to learn a great deal from such great race drivers as Marc and Patrick.”
Porsche Customer Teams
All in all, Porsche customer teams achieved excellent results on the Mount Panorama Circuit. As mentioned above, Porsche works driver Patrick Long, Porsche Junior Matt Campbell, Marc Lieb and David Calvert-Jones finished second overall and won the Class A-GT3 Pro-Am at the wheel of the 911 GT3 Rs fielded by Competition Motorsports. Other class victories at the prestigious race, which was contested by 14 autbile manufacturers in total, went to the 911 GT3 R of Walkinshaw GT3, the 911 GT3 Cup of Steve Richards Motorsport as well as the Cayman of PROsport Performance.
For the 911 GT3 R, the third major long distance race of the year after the 24-hour classics of Dubai and Daytona also concluded with a success. In Dubai, Herberth Motorsport had notched up a sensational overall victory; in Daytona Alegra Motorsports won the GTD class: It was a perfect start to the season for the 500+hp customer sports racer featuring the new ultra-modern four-litre flat-six engine with direct fuel injection.
One Factory Supported 911 GT3 R Left The Race Early
For the 911 GT3 R fielded by the Walkinshaw GT3 customer team with factory support, the race came to an abrupt end after just two hours. Initially, things looked very promising for the #911 vehicle. As a newcomer to the Porsche factory squad, Laurens Vanthoor was the traditional start driver and in the dark kept out of any trouble on this difficult racetrack to edge his way forward lap by lap. After one hour he was running in second place. His teammate Earl Bamber continued the charge and swept into the lead. But while attempting to lap a slower competitor, he collided, damaging the steering of the 911. Repairs would have taken too long and the dream of a Bathurst victory for the 2015 outright Le Mans winner and his teammates was dashed. The third driver Kévin Estre never got a chance to drive.
Overall Race results
1. Vilander/Lowndes/Whincup (SF/AUS/AUS), Ferrari 488, 290 laps
2. Lieb/Long/Campbell/Calvert-Jones (D/USA/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 289
3. Kane/Smith/Jarvis (GBR/GBR/GBR), Bentley Continental, 289
4. Talbot/Martin/Padayachee (AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 289
5. Parente/Bell/Ledogar (GB/GB/F), McLaren 605s, 289
6. Lago/Owen/Russel (AUS/AUS/AUS), Lamborghini, 288
7. Samadi/Gaunt/Halliday (AUS/NZ/GB), Audi R8, 288
8. Strauss/Kelly/Mardenborough (D/AUS/GB), Nissan GT-R, 288
9. Cini/Holdsworth/Fiore (AUS/AUS/AUS), Audi R8, 287
10. Manolis/Millier/Capelli/Canto (AUS/AUS/I/SA), Lamborghini, 285
Class A-GT3 Pro-Am
1. Lieb/Long/Campbell/Calvert-Jones (D/USA/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R
Classe A-GT3 Am
1. Talbot/Martin/Padayachee (AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R
1. Grant/Okeeffe/West (AUS/AUS/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
1. Jones/Braams/Viebahn/Moller-Madsen (AUS/NL/D/DK), Porsche Cayman