The McLaren 650S GT3 secures an historic clean sweep at the prestigious Bathurst 12 Hour, held at Australia’s iconic Mount Panorama.
The McLaren 650S GT3 has secured an historic clean sweep at the Bathurst 12 Hour, in one of the hardest-fought battles in the history of the event. On its debut at the iconic endurance event, over the course of the race weekend the 650S GT3 claimed pole position, the overall victory, and set a new lap record as the trio of Alvaro Parente, Shane Van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb triumphed over the 12 hours.
The race is held at the spiritual home of Australian motorsport, the stunning Mount Panorama circuit, which started life as a dirt track and tourist drive carved into the hills near the city of Bathurst in New South Wales, and held its first race in 1938. Today the surface of the track is unrecognisable from its humble beginnings, but Mount Panorama is still a public road for the majority of the year, which means the narrow circuit is a real challenge for even the most experienced drivers. The fearsome 6.2km (3.9-mile) track bucks and weaves up the mountain, climbing a steep 174m from the pit straight to its peak, before charging back down the other side via the flat-out Conrod Straight. It is unlike any other racetrack in the world.
In qualifying Shane Van Gisbergen posted the fastest time in both sessions to top the Pro class and put the #59 McLaren 650S GT3 of customer team Tekno Autosports on overall pole – and his lap time of 2m 01.286s secured Van Gisbergen the Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy and set a new official lap record for Mount Panorama. Fellow customer team Objective Racing took pole position in the highly competitive Pro-Am class to start third on the 37-car grid, while Tekno Autosports’ #60 650S GT3 qualified fifth overall, and McLaren locked out the third row when the #37 650S GT3 of Darrell Lea/Keltic Racing secured sixth.
Starting in the pre-dawn darkness, the race set off at a quick pace with Van Gisbergen’s #59 650S GT3 retaining the lead in the opening stint, and with clear air and no traffic he set a new lap record of 2m 01.567s. The pit-stop strategy saw #59 maintain a top six position over the following hours, and both McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente and Tekno team owner Jonathon Webb posted consistently quick laps as the heat of the day increased.
A hard-charging second stint by Parente saw the Portuguese driver in the slipstream of the podium positions, and Webb maintained P4 before handing over to Van Gisbergen for the final stint. A well-calculated strategy call during the various safety car periods saw the #59 650S GT3 leapfrog the leaders as they were forced to stop for fuel, and as the clock reached 12 hours, Van Gisbergen managed the gap to the chasing pack without taking any risks, crossing the line with a winning margin of 1.276 seconds.
All four of the 650S GT3s were in contention at various points, with the #60 car running P3 before its charge was brought to an unforced end after sustaining damage when one of the chasing pack misjudged an overtaking manoeuvre. The damage was quickly repaired by the Tekno Autosport pit crew, and despite losing four laps to the leaders, the team managed to recover to finish P9 overall.
The two 650S GT3 Pro-Am entries both led their class, with Objective Racing pushing for the overall race lead with the #11 car as the sun rose over the mountain, but contact with the barrier brought an early end to the team’s race. The #37 650S GT3 of Darrell Lea/Keltic Racing also ran as high as second overall, and a clean race and bold strategy helped the team build a four-lap advantage in the Pro-Am class before an unforced error pushed the car off the track and left it unable to rejoin.
‘Huge congratulations has to go to the Tekno team and each of the drivers for achieving the clean sweep of pole, fastest lap and the race win,’ said Andrew Kirkaldy, Managing Director of McLaren GT. ‘On top of that, they also claimed the official race lap record and set the distance record with 297 laps completed, so it’s not a bad first outing for the 650S GT3 and for the first event with Tekno and McLaren GT working together.
‘It was a great performance by each of the four cars and the drivers involved, and there were points where it looked like each of them was in with a chance of winning the race. Objective Racing and Darrell Lea were both leading the Pro-Am category when they were forced to retire, and the recovery and race pace of the second Tekno car was clear to see. On another day, who knows what could have happened. It’s a hugely positive result for all our customer teams here, and a great result for McLaren.’
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