THE first official entries are in for the 2019 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour — and it means a sweet V12 symphony will ring out across the top of Mount Panorama next February.
A pair of Aston Martin Vantage GT3s will be run by Swiss squad R-Motorsport, who scored a win with the machine at the Silverstone round of this year’s Blancpain GT Endurance Series.
The plan is for one of the cars to fight for victory in the all-Pro driver outright class, with the other in either the Pro-Am or Am class.
“We are glad to be back at the Mountain,” Dr. Florian Kamelger, R-Motorsport team principal, said.
“We have entered two Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3s which proved to be very competitive in the first three races of this year’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup winning the second round at Silverstone.
“We are looking forward to competing in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hours which is certainly one of the most important and challenging GT long distance races worldwide.”
The return of the six-litre, normally aspirated V12 Aston Martins adds to the mystique of the event, with this year’s outright challengers comprised of Audis, Mercedes, McLarens, BMWs and Porsches.
The team has competed in the race twice previously, but this marks the first time R-Motorsport is entered in the outright class.
“We are thrilled to welcome R-Motorsport back to Mount Panorama,” event director Kurt Sakzewski said.
“They are a very professional outfit and their success in the Blancpain GT Endurance series this year is proof of that.
“The team has become a regular visitor to Bathurst and they have already had class success in the past. It will be great to watch them challenge for outright victory for the first time.
“Aston Martin’s V12 Vantage GT3 entries are already hugely popular in Australia so we know they will be well supported by our fans.”
The driver line-up will be confirmed closer to the event, set to take place from January 31 — February 3, 2019.
For a driver who has taken a record 118 race wins, one stands taller than most for Jamie Whincup – and it came at the site of this weekend’s Superloop Adelaide 500 on a milestone weekend for the seven-time champion.
Whincup is making his 230th overall event start this weekend, and notably, his 200th for Triple Eight Race Engineering. He becomes just the second driver – after co-driver Craig Lowndes – to record 200 event starts with one team.
The Holden ace made his debut for Triple Eight at this very venue in 2006, and he crowned his debut with the team the best way possible – with an overall Adelaide 500 win.
Whincup’s four overall Adelaide 500 wins are unmatched, with Red Bull Holden Racing Team stablemate Shane van Gisbergen the next best with three.
However, Whincup’s lead-up to the 2020 season has been followed by questions over his future and if he may retire from the sport. Those questions were allayed once Whincup announced his plans to stay on in 2021, despite the recent fears Holden may exit the sport altogether.
Whincup’s longevity is one thing, but his consistency is another – alongside his seven titles, all coming with Triple Eight, he has finished in the top three in all seasons since 2007. In his only blip year, 2015, he still finished fifth and dominated the back half of that season.
Only six drivers – Craig Lowndes (297), Garth Tander (285), Jason Bright (260), Rick Kelly (255*), Russell Ingall (253) and Todd Kelly (243) – have more experience than Whincup, who turned 37 earlier this month.
For all his successes and experience, Whincup was grateful to even get this far having been axed as a youngster by Garry Rogers Motorsport.
“When you’re competing, the numbers are ticking away in the background. The numbers are the numbers,” Whincup told foxsports.com.au.
“For me, it’s not something I chase. But I’m sure when I do finish up, then the numbers will mean a lot.
“While they’re not important right now, I can see why they’ll be important at some period in my life down the track. I’m very grateful.
“Let’s go back to 2003 when I had a full-time drive, it was taken away from me, so the chances of getting back into the sport were quite slim.
“To get back in is one thing, but to get to 200 rounds with one team in the best category in the country, that’s a big achievement for sure.”
Back to Adelaide, a venue he has taken a record 10 wins – four more than next best Craig Lowndes – and there’s one particular race which stands out for Whincup in his 14-year reign at the very top.
Casting back to the 2012 event, which transpired shortly after the passing of his father David, Whincup described perhaps his most ruthless performance.
That day, having made a third stop, Whincup had to cut the deficit to leader Will Davison. Whincup went to another level and pieced together a staggering run of qualifying-like laps to mow down his mate Davison and pass him as the leading Falcon ran out of fuel on the final lap.
“My old man passed away the week before, it had been a tough week,” Whincup said, reflecting on the 2012 Adelaide win.
“He was there from the start, he pushed the go-kart out for me when I was seven years old.
“He had been at every single motorsport event I’d been to up until that point. He was a big part of everything and then boom, I was on my own.
“The emotion of that week was one thing, but the craziness of the race was another. We pitted for a third time, and my mate Will was leading the race and was trying to limp home with not much fuel in the tank.
“His car coughs, I pass him on the last lap to win the race.”
A stunned Davison got out of his car, which had stopped just past the finish line, as Whincup – emotions overflowing – took in the plaudits on the cooldown lap.
When Whincup returned to the pit lane, he cast a muted celebration before embracing Davison, who was satisfied his friend – in such a time of personal heartbreak – was the beneficiary.
Returning to Adelaide eight years on, with his future and 200 Triple Eight rounds on the agenda, Whincup – who alongside his successes has had his fair share on on-track despair – was fulfilled to have pieced together such a performance which still burns brightly in his heart.
“That one stands out because it’s a fairytale,” Whincup said.
“That stint, I was just ripping it. You hear it from other athletes, that when the pressure’s on, you go to another place. I felt that.
“I belted 15 or so quali laps and just had enough to get the lead on the last lap. I was fine on fuel because of the third stop. I just had to bolt and drive the car as hard as I could.
“I knew that if I did a good job, then I might’ve had a chance to get there. I absolutely belted it and it panned out the right way for us.
After sitting out Q1, Whincup made an early error in Q2 when he spun at Turn 9, but gathered it together to sneak into the shootout, which was held just 10 minutes later.
The 1:19.4793s time proved a scant 0.0048s up on David Reynolds, who also had a scrappy run to the front row when he suffered a suspected power steering failure on his out-lap.
However, try as they might, Whincup’s rivals failed to get close to the time, with the final three runners – Scott McLaughlin, Cameron Waters and Shane van Gisbergen – couldn’t even find a place on the front two rows.
“I didn’t know if there was anything in going out with a hot car straight after qualifying, or the engineers did a good job,” Whincup told the broadcast.
“The car felt great, I got the most out of it. I’m very happy to be P1. It’s an interesting format, not being in Q1 then only having 10 minutes before being straight into the shootout.
“It’s crazy close, 78 laps this afternoon will be intense but I’m looking forward to it.”
Reynolds was surprised how close he managed to get to Whincup, having called the pit wall mid-lap to end his shootout effort.
“There was smoke coming in, I started my lap and it was getting worse and worse,” Reynolds said.
“I thought my engine was gone and I was done… I got onto the back straight and [the smoke] was coming in more and more and I radioed in and said I was done, but [engineer Alistair McVean] said keep going, your sectors are good.
“Last corner there was so much smoke, I could barely see the track, but my car was amazing… I’m just disappointed I missed the pole.”
Jamie Whincup has sealed the first pole position of the new season following a breathless qualifying-shootout double at the Superloop Adelaide 500.
Despite being ninth in two-part qualifying, and being the second man out in the Top 10 Shootout, Whincup proved his class and guile on a weekend he announced a contract extension with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
It marked Whincup’s eighth pole on the Adelaide streets – an event record – with David Reynolds second by a scant 0.0048s to set an all-Holden front row for the first race of the season.
The two-part qualifying began strongly for Andre Heimgartner, who was on the initial pace with a 1:20.4510s in the #7 NED Mustang. The Kiwi would lower the mark to a 1:20.2442s to sail into Q2, taking Nick Percat, Lee Holdsworth and Jack Le Brocq with him.
However, only 13 cars competed in Q2 with LeBrocq’s#55 Supercheap Auto Mustang suffering a suspected power steering drama.
Defending champion Scott McLaughlin made an early error in Q2 as he bowled a wide at Turn 4, but recovered to post a 1:19.8256s flyer to head the field. Friday fast man Chaz Mostert slotted in behind with a 1:19.9313s to sit just a tenth down.
Whincup appeared to hit a struggle once he rotated at Turn 9, but still managed to lift himself into third behind McLaughlin – and ninth once happy hour ended – after Waters vaulted to first on a 1:19.5396s.
Pye crunches into the wall
Shane van Gisbergen, though, sealed last-out honours for the shootout once he dropped in a 1:19.4462, with Anton De Pasquale’s last-gasp effort earning himself a shootout berth at the expense of Fabian Coulthard.
De Pasquale’s shootout-opening 1:19.9582s didn’t last long at the top once Whincup set a 1:19.4793s. Whincup’s lap proved too far out of reach for Mark Winterbottom, Mostert, Nick Percat and Will Davison.
Next-man out David Reynolds somehow slotted in 0.0048s behind despite smoke spraying from the #9 Penrite ZB Commodore, before Scott McLaughlin struggled with oversteer to drop into fifth, 0.3697s down on Whincup.
That left Waters and van Gisbergen to prevent a Lazarus effort by Whincup, and the former could only pip McLaughlin to slot into fifth.
Van Gisbergen, with a chance to make it a Red Bull Holden front row and grab the record eighth pole, but could only manage sixth as Whincup claimed an 84th career pole.