The Bathurst 12-Hour enduro race may not yet draw the same crowds as the Supercars Bathurst 1000, but its profile domestically and internationally is growing rapidly.
The four-day 2019 event (January 31 to February 3) has an incredibly strong driver line-up including Le Mans and Spa enduro winners, plus DTM and Supercars touring champs.
As ever, the headline act is the GT3 class, race cars with genuine connections to high-end road cars. It’s this factor that makes GT cars resonate with car enthusiasts in such a big way.
“[It’s] the best driver line up we’ve had in the last five years” said head of operations for Supercars, Kurt Sakzewski, adding that there was expected to be around 45,000 punters attending the extended event, many camping over the whole stint.
Mercedes-AMG held a launch event this morning at the Mercedes Me cafe in Melbourne, announcing plans for its “biggest ever” presence.
Mercedes-AMG will field six GT3 entries, provide the Safety Car (the E63 S, with ANCAP stickers to market the safety tester’s role in the industry) and pamper about 200 Mercedes-AMG customers.
It’ll also premiere its ‘softer’ GT4 race car, which uses the same safety cell as the GT3 but is easier to drive and maintain for uber wealthy business types/amateur racers. It uses the familiar 375kW 4.0 turbo V8 from the GT road car, and costs a shade under 200,000 euros.
Not much for a loaded amateur racer, especially since it doesn’t need a travelling road show of engineers running the diagnostics, nor a team of mechanics to keep it running a la the more hardcore GT3 version.
The six entries will contest the marquee ‘A’ class and include the Mercedes-AMG ‘Team Vodafone GT3’, piloted by seven-time Supercars champ Jamie Whincup alongside Shane van Gisbergen and 2018 Bathurst 1000 winner Craig Lowndes.
Other notable drivers to race under the Mercedes-AMG banner will include factory drivers Maro Engel, Thomas Jäger and 2018 DTM champion Gary Paffett, plus 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner David Reynolds.
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “The Intercontinental GT Challenge is a highly attractive series. All the five endurance races are very demanding and the effort from our rivals is even bigger than in previous years.”
“This year marks the highest number of Mercedes-AMG vehicle entries, accompanied by a strong line-up of local, international and factory drivers,” added MB Cars CEO and managing director Horst von Sanden.
“It promises to be another exciting weekend for our customers and racing enthusiasts in Australia, and the many fans watching from around the world. The iconic Mount Panorama racetrack is also an ideal location for Mercedes-AMG to emphasise the importance it places on safety in motorsport…”