AUSTRALIA and the world has tuned in to watch Nissan’s iconic GT-R return to the top of the podium at Mount Panorama during the 2015 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. Godzilla’s last lap charge delivered a fairytale Bathurst 12-Hour win for Chiyo and NISMO GT Academy drivers. After 269 laps and an unprecedented 20 safety car interventions, the 2015 Bathurst 12-Hour went down to the wire. A frantic final lunge saw the Nissan GT-R return to the top spot at Mount Panorama — for the first time since 1992. In what was effectively a series of 21 sprint races, the last corner of the last lap shook up the order, with the Bell Bentley being shuffled from second place to fourth at the flag. Vanthoor finished second, with the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Stefan Mucke slipping ahead for the final podium position.
Erebus Motorsport’s Mercedes-Benz SLS GT3, piloted by Jack LeBrocq, Richard Muscat and Dean Canto finished fifth after leading for portions of the race, while sixth was taken by the Ferrari 458 GT3 of Benny Simonsen, Andrea Montermini (another former-F1 driver) and Renato Loberto.
Class B was taken by James Kondouris, Theo Kondouris, Marcus Marshall and Sam Power aboard their Porsche 911 Cup S, from motoring.com.au’s own Luke Youlden, who shared a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with Stephen Grove and Ben Barker. Class C was won by the Lotus Exige Cup R of Tony Alford, Mark O’Connor and Peter Leemhuis and Class D by the BMW 1M of Beric Lynton, John Modystach and Robert Thompson. Finally, the Class for invitational non-production cars saw the MARC Focus V8 of Garry Jacobson, Gereskowski and Adam Gowans victorious.
As a national Australian TV audience watched the entire race on the Seven Network for the first time, fans from 149 countries watched at least some part of the live streaming coverage provided via the Bathurst 12 Hour website. Seven’s marathon coverage stretched from 5:30am to 6:00pm Australian Eastern Daylight time (AEDT) and was split between Seven and 7 mate. Seven’s live coverage of the race dominated on Sunday, the coverage peaking at 730,000 viewers across metropolitan and regional markets with an average metropolitan and regional combined audience of 396,000.
Event organisers announced a record three-day attendance of 32,297 people, up 6,166 (more than 20%) on 2014 and more than 40% higher than the 2013 figure. More than 12,000 people were at the circuit on Sunday to watch the race unfold. More than 1,800 camping sites were filled with the paddock campground sold out for the first time in the history of the Event. Alternate sites, including the Max Cameron campground behind turn one, were opened to cater for demand.
On track, 50 cars started the 2015 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour following three withdrawals prior to the start of the race. Defending champions Maranello Motorsport (Ferrari) and Wall Racing (Porsche) each withdrew a vehicle from the field after substantial impacts at the top of Mount Panorama on Friday. 34 of the 50 starters were classified as finishers following a bruising race that saw 20 separate appearances from the Mercedes Benz Safety Car.
Belgian Audi star Laurens Vanthoor set two separate records in his quest for Bathurst victory; the first being the quickest lap ever officially recorded at Mount Panorama: the 2m02.5521s that secured him the Allan Simonsen Pole Position trophy and a new marker for others to target. His 2m03.3091s marker set on lap 29 of the race also stands as the new GT lap record at the circuit, toppling Shane van Gisbergen’s 2014 marker set in a McLaren by 0.54 seconds and showing both the rapid evolution of GT3 machinery and the remarkable talent within this year’s field. Five different brands finished inside the top five and on the lead lap ultimately crossing the line separated by less than four seconds following the two-lap dash to the line. Vehicles representing seven different manufacturers filled the top seven places at the end of the race.
The top four spots were filled by cars powered by four different engines, the winning Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 sporting a turbocharged V6, the second-placed Audi R8 LMS Ultra a mid-mounted V10, the third-placed Craft Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 a soaring V12 with the Bentley Continental GT3 that just missed out on a podium utilising V8 power. It was a resounding victory for the Nissan team, who returned the GT-R name to Bathurst victory after an absence of 23 years.
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