Bathurst ReportThe first hours
You may have noticed—or not, that only 25 cars took the start. Not only the No. 4 Lambo was missing but also, sad for Blue Oval fans, the Falcon also did not. Two of the drivers were not within the 130 percent limit—the car barely was that quick anyway.
The rain was light and merely passing (a bit more coming per the radar), but problematic enough to catch out a few cars. The race resumed after a 16 minute intervention. Roger Lago spun the remaining Gallardo and blocked the track for a few agonizing seconds before moving again—fortunately the pack was elsewhere. Then Nathan Tinkler spun the No. 3 Porsche, with several taking to avoidance. Craig Lowdnes (No. 2 Audi) had a brief lead before Bleekemolen squeezed by. Then we had more drama. Frank Yu had just taken over the United Audi and slammed hard front and back into the wall—bringing out another safety car and likley ending the day for the British-American team. The timing screen still showing “F. Yu” as the driver of No. 22. While the track was yellow Phil Alexander crashed the No. 35 Mazda on his out lap--hmmm. Sam Ticknell reports that the No. 1’s earlier penalty was for too many crew members on the stop.
The second safety car period lasted for even laps. The ensuing green led by Bleekemolen last perhaps 27 seconds, when Sean-Patrick Breslin crashed—a very bent Benz. By the way, repairs are allowed after cars have been hauled back in. United Autosports, Red Camel, and Ric Shaw Racing are all doing so, although the report is that the Audi’s chassis may be broken.
This particular safety car period lasted 17 minutes. Racing resumes with a spectacular three-way fight for the lead. First Bleekemolen, then Lowndes take turns at the lead, with Jöns a few car lengths behind. The scrap goes on and on—great stuff. Jöns bobs and weaves, then powers next to Bleekemolen on the long fast downhill and cuts into the lead at the appropriately named chicane, The Chase. All the while, Lowndes is glued to their tail. John Bowe (No. 17 Maranello Ferrari) is at the very end of the lead lap.
A couple of laps later Lowndes gets past Bleekemolen, making it an Audi 1-2. At about the 3:45 mark of the race the rain returned—light and intermittent again. The three leaders backed off from their fight, but only slightly. Two laps later there was drama at the start of the downhill when Jöns’ Audi became a touch twitchy, he wisely took to a parallel escape road and let Lowndes by into the lead. Bleekemolen stayed clear of the fray.
The hour ends with the battle in Class B as intense as it has been all day. Steven Johnson in the No. 3 entry three seconds clear of Simon McLennon in No. 65. The No. 54 Nissan, Adam Beechey driving straight rather than donuts, leads Class C. Next overall and leading Class E is Elliot Barbour in the No. 50 Holden, then Dean Herridge, No. 7 Subaru and now first in D. None of the three Class I entries are moving at the moment. The hour ends with the rain intensifying and Lowndes stopping in from the lead.
Hours Five and Six
Warren Luff steps into the No. 2 Audi and Peter Hackett into the No. 20 Mercedes, which led briefly on the exchange. Wayne Park has taken over the Lamborghini, now fifth overall. This is all taking place under a steady though far from torrential rain.
Luff seems to have the measure of the conditions as he has pulled out the largest lead of the day—some 20 seconds over Mies.The No. 66 Porsche had a long stop for a shock absorber replacement. The No. 10 Lotus crawled back for pit stop number 11—no exaggeration there. The turbo haas been rebuilt on the Seat and martin Bailey is now driving. The No. 32 Mazda is running well again after more mystery fuel issues. An interest word from their sponsors—the company is called Massel. They are a producer of various savory food items and spices such as soup cubes and the like. They currently distribute in Canada through McCormick Foods—very well known in North Am, and are now moving into the Chicago and New York markets.
Back to racing, Wayne Park spun into the wall with the No. 23 Lamborghini, bringing about our 4th full-course caution. It was complicated when the wheel fell off as it was being flat towed back. Luff made another stop during the period, dropping the No. 2 Audi to third behind the No. 20 M-B of Hackett. On the restart Mies held a 10-second lead. At the end of five hours it continues to rain, but it has eased a bit in the past 15 minutes or so.
Hour 6 starts with more drama as Dominik Farnbacher comes to a dead stop on track with a very smoky Ferrari looking even more ominous as it is steaming in the mist—safety car period #5. Rene de Boer reports that the ECU had quit and on trying to restart it the fire extinguisher was deployed. Farnbacher also told Rene that the traction control on the Ferrari had been inoperative, making the car very difficult to drive in the rain.
On the restart the Audi 1-2 is reasserted, indeed it is 1-2 cars 1-2—the No. 20 Merc is about 20 seconds behind (not as great rain settings?) and these are the only cars on the lead lap. Mies made a routine stop at the 5-1/2 hour mark—fuel and tires. This allowed Bleekemolen into second place. At about thr 5:40 mark comes safety car #6 as David Glasson spears into the tires with the No. 68 Class D BMW 135i.
This brings about some wholesale stops and Mark Eddy takes over the leading No. 2 Audi. It’s his first stint in the car. Bleekemolen stays out and inherits the lead. The track goes green just past noon, approaching half-time. Mies takes Bleekomelen at the last turn of the first lap—regaining top spot for Audi. Mark Eddy is in no position to follow as he takes to the wet sand at the exit of The Chase, but is able to keep going—costing about 40 seconds.
In the classes, “B” is as close as it’s been from the start, No. 3 (Richards) ahead of the other Porsche of McLennon (No. 65). Tony Alford is alone in the Class C lead with the No. 54 Nissan. Chris Pither, No. 50 Holden had the edge in Class E. John O’Dowd has a one lap lead in Class D with the No. 7 Subaru. The Seat now leads Class I as the No. 32 Mazda is continuing to pop in and out of the pits.
One advantage of the early start is that the day is still young and we’re halfway. What’s hard to wrap one’s head around is that at this moment it is 5 in the afternoon yesterday back home, 8 in the evening for those on the US east coast—1 ayem for all the POMEs (as Aussies and the Continent lies in deep slumber.
Here the rain picks up again.
Hours Seven and Eight
Big Drama at the 6:15 elapsed time mark as Christopher Mies has a lurid spin coming down from The Chase and spins backwards into the tires at the lap ending STP Corner. He loses the lead and the track goes yellow again. Then it gets that much worse for Audi as Mark Eddy makes a fuel stop and pulls out with the hoses still attached, creating a massive spill in their pits—a 5 minute penalty to follow as well. This leaves Bleekemolen in the lead but he soon hands over to Bret Curtis, letting Eddy back up front for the moment. The No. 1 Audi (now with Darryl O’Young) was not damaged at all, and has returned to third place.
The longClass B battle still has No. 3 (Tinkler) ahead of No. 65 (O’Donnell) but the gap has increased as the Southern Cross entry has lost a few laps with an extended stop to diagnose setup and generall check the car over. The I class leader, the No. 14 Seat, now has Ivo Breukers at the wheel. Behind him Jim Pollicina is taking his first stint in the No. 32 Mazda. The No. 10 Lotus has retired—its engine has failed and the accident damage proved too severe for the Lamborghini.
O’Young has moved ahead of Curtis while Eddy came in for the long hold in the Sin Bin. The No 67 BMW (Todd Murphy) had a mild spin and a rarity today—no further consequence. The rain is getting gradually stronger and visibility has dropped considerably. Just past the 7-hour mark it gets direr for No. 2 as Eddy rides the eddies off the racing surface and ito the barriers—full-course caution No. 8.
During the break, Tim Slade took over the No. 20 Mercedes, dropping them a lap behind the leading Audi. We now have four marques in the first four spots; Audi-Mercedes-Ferrari-Porsche. Deeper into the top ten there is a Nissan, Holden, and Subaru.
There is rumor to the effect that the Erebus Mercedes team, Phoenix Racing, and the stewards are meeting about a possible missed lap claimed by the Mercedes during a recent yellow flag period. The hour ends with the No. 27 BMW firmly ensconced in the gravel. It’s too far off the racing line to need a yellow—in fact it is so far off the track officials are checking it over to see if it has a parking pass.
Hours Nine and Ten
The rain has again eased—or perhaps we’re so used to it that nobody notices—sort of like life in Seattle. The damage on the No. 2 Audi has proven too significant and it also seems that the No. 17 Ferrari will not return. This leaves the No. 1 Audi well in command, a lap [assuming the lap sticks] over the No. 20 Mercedes, and another 6.2 kilometers ahead of the third place car. That is the Clearwater Ferrari which has been plowing nicely through the murky water for the last several hours.
Down in 11th place is the No. 66 Porsche. That is noteworthy as it is being driven by a man who would be well-suited to driving a Daytona Prototype, Allan Dippie. We’ve had a bit of drama as Dean Herridge brings in the No. 7 Subaru. I may be mistaken but this Japanese manufacturer does not build steam engines or oil-burning motors—the WRX has just thrown a clouded mixture of the two—blown turbo is the verdict. Presuming that they will retire from 8th place the No. 62 Lotus or Mr. Klien will move up a spot.
Hour Nine ends with a distinctly brighter sky—still drizzzling but the clouds are getting thinner. The No. 27 BMW, which had early seemed to have headed to the car park, returned to the race only to spin into the gravel on the long downhill and brought about yellow flag festivities for the ninth time. Astern of Booker’s BMW Head fell further behind when the No. 67 BMW spun. Speaking of bookings, the Clearwater Ferrari was called in for a stop-and-go; some quite small indisretion. This coincided with a routine stop by O’Young, handing over to Jöns, and keeping the lead.
Perhaps the key story of this period has been the steady progress of the No. 33 Ferrari. That 50 kilo has meant nothing in these conditions. Baird ends the 10th hour some 40 seconds behind the second place No. 20 Mercedes of Hackett. The Ferrari has generally been able to gain fractions each lap, not enough by itself to make a difference, but fuel stops, driver changes, possible safety car interventions, and the like could make the difference. Overall the No. 1 Audi continues a strong lead.
Further back, one of the production BMWs used spares from a donor vehicle in the paddock. “Supposedly” it came from the team owner’s car, but a warning to anyone with a 135i here, check around your vehicle before departing these evening. As for the weather, darker and more foreboding—interesting windup coming.
Hours Eleven and Twelve
Some final impressions; the friendliness and good humor of Australians is continually amazing. As noted before, this is easily the least foreign country to any North American, even if they drive on the wrong side (I’m getting tired of turning on my wipers each time I signal a turn).
A lap around the perimeter road reveals how spectacular the circuit is. it is far steeper than TV or photographic images convey and the view from Mount Panorama over the circuit and the valley is stunning.
The No. 33 Ferrari is theoretically within striking distance of the second place No. 20 Mercedes, and with Baird now chasing Hackett, the margin has come down a bit. However, it would take a Herculean effort to overhaul the SLS with just over an hour to go. Hackett makes a stop with 65 minutes left, hands over to Bleekemolen. It drops the Mercedes to third but the Ferrari is owing a stop. To the Clearwater crew’s credit, they have stretched and stretched each stint in the last few hours, so this could get interesting.
Baird does come in at precisely the 23:00 hour mark. The stop is routine and Weng Mok Sun takes over for the finish for the Malaysian based Ferrari. This reestablishes the “rightful” Mercedes-Ferrari 2-3 order.
Meanwhile, the weather has changed again—this time in a favorable direction. The rain has stopped although it remains quite cloudy and the track and spectators will likely stay moist to the end.
With 45 minutes remaining here are the apparent class podium finishes:
Class B (Porsche Cup): 1st, No. 3, Hunter Sports Group, (now driving) Nathan Tinkler, 4th overall
2nd, No. 65, Southern Cross, Simon McLennon, -10 laps, 5th overall
3rd, No. 66, Motorsport Services, Mike Maddren, -26 laps, 10th overall
Class C: 1st, No. 54, Donut King Nissan R35 GTR (Tony Alford), 6th overall
2nd, No. 62, Queensland Homes Lotus Exige (Robert Thomson), -9 laps, 8th overall
no other runners
Class E, 1st, No. 50 Racer Industries Holden HSV VX-R (Chris Pither), 7th overall
2nd, No. 26, GWS BMW 130i (Richard Gartner), -12 laps, 11th overall
3rd, No. 27, Shire Conveyance BMW 130i (Kean Booker), -30 laps, 14th overall
Class D, 1st, No. 53, Boss Plaster Holden HSV GTS (Rick Newman), 10th overall
2nd, No. 7 Maximum Subaru WRX Sti (Angus Kennard), -19 laps, 12th overall [repaired the turbo!]
3rd, No. 28, GWS BMW 335i (Garth Duffy) -25 laps, 13th overall
Class I, 1st, No. 14 Red Camel Seat Leon (Ivo Breukers), 17th overall
2nd, No. 32 Massel Mazda RX-7 (Gerry Murphy), -83 laps, 21st overall
With 42 minutes left in the 2012 Armor All Bathurst 12 Hours Darryl O’Young makes the final stop for the leading No. 1 Phoenix Audi. It goes smoothly and allows the Mercedes onto the lead lap. Not so for the Ferrari as its times have gradually risen (8-10 seconds per lap) during Mok’s closing stint.
Going into the final 30 minutes, Bleekemolen is about 80 seconds behind race leader O’Young. While that is not quite chaing material, the two have closely matched lap times for several tours, keeping the finish that much more interesting.
There are some last minute issues with the No. 53 Holden. The crew is attending to electronics and ignition components while Rick Newman waits patiently at the wheel. With 10 minutes to go the gap from first to second place overall is 76 seconds. Thus the race does appear to be over. All of the other positions, overall and class haave been set. The Holden remains in the pits but comes back and will not lose any positions. Emerging from the pits after an eternity there is the No. 32 Mazda
Otherwise, the final 5 laps unfold as expected and Darryl O’Young brings the No. 1 Phoenix entry home first in front of a significantly brave large group of spectators who have braved a day of rather poor weather. It is another triumph for a very strong Audi contingent. Importantly, it was another fine edition of this Australian classic which has now emerged as a major international event. Now it’s time for some lager and a steak on the barbie—great stuff.
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