Bathurst 12h around Mount Panorama, Intercontinental GT Challenge Season Opener Debrief

Hey remember that new Intercontinental GT Challenge series?

After volunteering Spa 24 hour in Belgium I’ve been obsessing about all things SRO, for a variety of reasons. One of the better ones being the quality of race cars participating in their events. This was true at Sepang 12 hour a few months ago, another event SRO decided to work together with SIC to put together and bring to the world. The SRO partnership with V8 Supercars, the new owners of Australian GT that runs the Bathurst 12 hour race around Mount Panorama was officially the season opener of the new series.

The event didn’t disappoint.

While the fields were smaller than the previous few years, the quality of racing improved in my opinion. There were fewer incidents including major ones at the top of the mountain like last year’s massive Nissan GT-R impact. The few incidents that did occur were relatively minor and many of them happened to happen right in front of me at Post 23, the very last corner before the main straight. I was so lucky to be assigned this spot, words can’t describe. The race set several records, including the fastest time for a GT3 car as well as the most laps done in 12 hours with fewer safety car periods compared to previous years.

Another lucky thing for me was the fact that a Kiwi driver took the victory in a Kiwi car: Shane Van Gisbergen driving the #59 McLaren. Coincidentally the next stop on my road trip was New Zealand.

bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 1

The views from my post were absolutely awesome, both looking upstream and downstream. Though I did find myself having a lot of trouble with the Blue flag. More than once I managed to blue flag the wrong cars and that pissed me off, especially since I thought I knew these cars pretty well. Luckily we had the positioning tower directly across from us in pit lane, so after kicking myself with the first few mistakes I would glance over at the tower to see what order the cars should be running in and if the two were close enough I went ahead and blue flagged for the leaders.

bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 2

The other disappointment wasn’t so much in the race as with the organizers. V8 Supercars decided not to allow the groups of owners holding a car show on the outside of the track to do a parade lap during the lunch break like they did in previous years. Instead they gave all the track time to a few Ferrari owners that for some unknown reasons thought they were race car drivers. I saw one guy wearing bright red racing gloves in his new Ferrari 488, while also wearing a short sleeve shirt. It was a bit upsetting to me personally because I was eagerly looking forward to jumping into one of the many MX-5’s that showed up to the event specifically with the understanding they were going to do a parade lap, a lap that never happened. Go figure!

Luckily there was a lot going on trackside to let me get over the missed opportunity of riding shotgun in an MX-5 around Mount Panorama. Besides a few spins and beached cars in our sand trap we had a few side to side, metal to metal contacts occur. As well as an exploded engine that happened just before the post as the car proceeded to cruise into our runoff. It was something else really, watching an old V8 Supercars Marlboro livery Holden Commodore blow an engine and a massive fireball coming around the car from the bottom of the front end. It was pretty amazing, something I haven’t seen happen so closely and vividly before.

The true highlight of the event for me was the people I had the pleasure of spending the time with. The team I was paired with at Post 23 was pretty amazing. Our post chief was really down to earth, positive and helpful. When I talked to him about my Gout flare up, he was very understanding. As was the rest of the team. Our communicator Dave runs a Mazda related web site called OZMazda which was cool. And a young girl from Queensland marshaling at Bathurst with her father who was posted at the next station gave me a hand with a bunch of incident reports I had to write as many of them happened on my watch while holding the radio in our rotation. Which by the way was actually an old American landline system using the same exact box we use at most street circuits including Long Beach, Baltimore and Belle Isle. The hum coming out of the headset was unmistakable.

bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 4
Sahra’s (from Gold Coast, Queensland) patch collection… somehow I think we would never get away with having Bikini chicks on patches for US events.
bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 3
The beauty of being at Post 23 was the ability to sneak away for an MX-5 parade lap which unfortunately never happened. Luckily one of the MX-5 owners spectating was able to come up right to our flag point and have a little chat during our down time.
bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 0
The view down the front straight is as good as it gets from this spot! Especially for the start and  all the re-starts.
bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 8
For all incidents that required a Safety Car one of these Medical cars went out and returned the driver to the Medical centre across from us, keeping our team in the loop of what’s happening.
bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 9
Track Map and Posts of all the Marshal stations around Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst.
bathurst rsl pub food during bathurst 12 hour
pure deliciousness… Aussie Beef with salad and chips… Yumm!

Huge thanks to my friend Paul Kelly from Victoria for organizing my sleeping arrangements at Bathurst by not only providing a tent, sleeping bag and pillows, but also setting it all up for me and helping tear it down in the end. That was such a huge help! Also big thanks to Paul for driving me and the rest of our group to town every evening after track activities were over, all these delicious meals we had were thanks to his initiative to get us some real food (off track).

Read more about the event from Paul’s perspective on his marshaling blog: kellyflag.blogspot.com/bathurst-12hr-2016.html

bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 6
One of the many delicious pub meals we got to share with fellow Marshals after track activities were over. The town of Bathurst has a number of pubs and an RSL to choose from to have proper Australian food like this Roast Lamb dish.
bathurst 12 hour intercontinental gt challenge 5
Post event drink: Queensland’s XXXX beer… I got to do a brewery tour when I lived in Brisbane back in 2009.

I got lucky on so many levels working this year’s Bathurst 12 hour. The weather was amazing, it started out a little cool but towards the end of the week I was frying in direct sunlight, it was literally burning thru my jeans. The post assignment was perfect. The team I worked with was super. And all the friends I got to catch up with over the four day visit really makes me miss the whole experience already, can’t wait to return to Australia again… hopefully next time I’ll get to do something completely new like one of the street races around Gold Coast… hmm!