Super GT’s finest ready to conquer the mountain at Bathurst 12 Hour Race

You know you’re going to watch the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour Race this weekend on February 5th. An event that has rapidly risen in prominence to become one of the must-see endurance sports car races of the year, the Bathurst 12 Hour combines the greatest drivers from Australia and around the world, the fastest GT3 and production race cars on the planet, and the majestic, demanding, and awe-inspiring Mount Panorama Circuit.

You know you’re watching this. It’s been a good race every year for the last three years. It’s only got the potential to be even better this year, with a record entry list of cars and teams, and the most star-studded driver lineups in the race’s brief, but storied history.

On the entry list are six current and former Super GT drivers, headlined by 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour champion Katsumasa Chiyo and first-year Bathurst entry Jann Mardenborough, who will represent NISMO in this year’s race.

The rest of the entry list in itself is something astounding. Of course, the top stars of the Australian Supercars championship will be there – the contingent of current and former Supercars drivers have won 18 series championships and 33 Bathurst 1000km races between them. Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, Garth Tander, Mark Skaife, Russell Ingall – and the defending Supercars champion, and winner of the 12 Hour race, Shane van Gisbergen.

Then you add former Bathurst 12 Hour winners like Christopher Mies and Bernd Schneider, reigning World Endurance Drivers’ Champion Marc Lieb, former Blancpain GT Series champions Laurens Vanthoor and Robin Frijns, and former Le Mans 24h winner Earl Bamber – and that’s still not even truly scratching the surface of the star power involved!

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© Nissan

NISMO will bring two factory-backed Nissan GT-R GT3s to the mountain for the first time ever.

Chiyo will join Nissan Blancpain GT Series driver Alex Buncombe (United Kingdom) and Australian Supercars driver Michael Caruso (Australia) in the white, red and black #23 GT-R. Mardenborough will be in the white, yellow, and black #24 GT-R with former 12 Hour winner Florian Strauss and former Bathurst 1000 winner Todd Kelly.

Chiyo has quickly become one of the star attractions of this race, for his late-race heroics in winning the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour, and then in finishing a close second in last year’s race to the Tekno Autosport McLaren 650S GT3 of Alvaro Parente, Jonathon Webb, and Shane van Gisbergen. Last year in Super GT, Chiyo made his debut in the GT500 class for MOLA International.

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© Nissan

“I’m really looking forward to having a crack at the Bathurst 12 Hour again this year with my Australian family, Team Kelly and Team RJN,” said Chiyo. “I have strong teammates. It’s like a dream team. It’s such an amazing track with awesome fans and amazing history. In 2015, we won the race in a dramatic finish. Last year, we tried to defend the title, but we were beaten by the McLaren. This year, I think our mission is simple: win back the trophy for the Nissan GT-R.”

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© Nissan

“I’m honored to be chosen by NISMO and Nissan Australia to represent them in the Bathurst 12 Hour,” said Mardenborough when he was confirmed earlier this month. “It’s a race I’ve watch on television and played on PlayStation. I’m really excited to take part. Just playing the game, Sector 2 looks mega, so I can’t imagine what it will be like on the first lap and on qualifying tires. I‘m hugely excited to compete with drivers that have lots of experience at the track, and with some drivers that I know quite well, like Florian and Chiyo.”

Mardenborough drove for NDDP Racing in the GT300 category last season, winning the prestigious Fuji 500km race on another famous racing mountain. He is set to be confirmed for a GT500 promotion for the 2017 Super GT season.

Both the #23 and #24 GT-Rs will compete in the GT3 Pro category.

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© BMW

The contingent of Super GT drivers is bolstered by longtime BMW factory racer and BMW Team Studie ace driver Jörg Müller, who will join Walkenhorst Motorsport in the #99 BMW M6 GT3 that is new to this race in 2017.

Müller, one of BMW’s most experienced racing drivers, will join two of BMW’s youngest stars, Nico Menzel (Germany) and Ricky Collard (England), two second-generation drivers and members of the BMW Motorsport Juniors programme. Menzel is the reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion, and Collard was the runner-up in last year’s BRDC British Formula 3 Championship.

“Up to now, I’ve only watched the Bathurst 12 Hour on the live stream,” says Müller. “I think it is one of the great GT3 races. So I’m really looking forward to finally taking part.”

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© Bentley

High-profile free agent Oliver Jarvis will make his debut with Bentley Motorsport in this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour Race, when he drives the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Contintental GT3 alongside fellow British drivers Steven Kane and Guy Smith, the latter a former champion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“To be able to start this new and exciting chapter in my life at Bathurst 12 Hour will also be something very special, as it’s a race I’ve been looking forward to tackling for several years,” Jarvis said of his upcoming Bathurst and Bentley debut.

Jarvis drove in Super GT in 2007 and 2014, first as a one-off entry for Lexus Team TOM’s as part of the team that won that year’s Suzuka 1000km, then seven years later in a full-season campaign for Lexus Team SARD. Jarvis drove for Audi Sport Team Joest in the World Endurance Championship until the end of last season, when Audi shuttered their LMP1 programme.

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© Porsche Carrera Cup Asia

In the sub-classes, former GT300 race winner Alexandre Imperatori of Switzerland will join the Grove Racing team in their Porsche 911 Cup Car, the overwhelming favorites in Class B for Porsche Cup cars. His co-drivers will be team owner Stephen Grove (Australia) and WEC driver Ben Barker (Great Britain).

“It’s a race that has been on my list for a very long time and I can’t wait to get there,” Imperatori said. “Even though I have done a fair bit of endurance racing, Bathurst is a monument of its own and I’m looking forward to the challenge of this amazing track and event.”

Morgan Haber, who made his Super GT debut last year as a wildcard entry in Buriram, Thailand, will be in the #90 MARC Cars Australia BMW M6 GT3 in the GT3 Am class, joined by Max Twigg, and the hero and co-champion of the legendary 2014 Bathurst 1000, Chaz Mostert.

This year, the Bathurst 12 Hour Race will be broadcast in Australia on Channel 7, and internationally via live streaming at the Bathurst 12 Hour website, as well as on NISMO TV, Red Bull TV, and RadioLeMans.com.

Clear your calendar this Saturday, because if you’re watching one endurance sports car race this year outside of Super GT, Super Taikyu, or Le Mans, you need to watch this one. Trust us on this. You’ll be glad you did.

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