A red flag ends Bathurst’s 12 hours prematurely. The reason: a brutal accident in the upper Mount Panorama. Andy Soucek, KO before half a career.
Finishing an iconic race by red flag is not something you see often, but in this case, it was necessary. A monstrous accident has caused the red flag, and therefore, the decision of a typical resistance race.
Reliability is not a problem today – well, say that to Toyota. Technology has advanced so much that resistance races become sprints with changing drivers. What is the differencial factor then? The quality of the drivers, and the place where they compete. Mount Panorama does not forgive, and Bathurst’s 12 hours of 2018 are the best example of that.
A total of 16 safety car periods have ensured the uncertainty, a milliliter strategy and constant tension. Each meter of the journey was an adventure. Maybe it was a crossed car, broken or even meeting a kangaroo. Luckily, the ‘aussie’ wildlife has only been seen inside the cars.
Especially Chaz Mostert. The BMW # 43 rider has driven a first stratospheric relay. The safety cars and a drive-through penalty have diminished the pace of the M6 GT3 of the Bavaria brand.
Once Mostert has gone back up to face the final part of the race, the pace has returned to the BMW. Augusto Farfus and Marco Wittmann have had lots of problemas to equalize their partner’s times. But, once the beast has touched again the hands of Mostert, it has come back to life.
Everything was going well for them, because the comeback was clear. Until The Mountain has thrown them. There is a lot of talk that Mount Panorama has a life of its own, and in this case, it is even credible. In the middle of a doubling and a direct fight with the Bentley # 17, Mostert has hit a Porsche and as a consequence, has taken off the Bentley, which has taken a second Porsche. Result: The BMW had to retire less than three hours before the end and a fine of 2000 Australian dollars for Mostert, with 1000 of them suspended in case of repeating it.
And the rest? Well, the rest was surviving. Audi planned it well the whole race. The two spearheads were # 74 and # 22. The first came out next to BMW # 43, and benefited from all the bad things that have happened to Mostert and company. The strategy on foot changed has benefited them in the long run. Until, again, Bathurst has crossed off the leaders’ list.
First the Audi # 22, with Kelvin Van der Linde at the wheel. The German has hit the wall in the descent and, with it, has damaged the rear suspension of the car. Long repair time and they have lost a few laps with # 74. But that has not been all for Audi.
#74 has broken less than two hours before the end. In those moments a brutal ending was emerging. It was one of those who enter fully into the history books. Markus Winkelhock has risen for the final relay to the R8, and a Little mistake has cost them the victory.
The famous German has stepped on the outer curb of Griffin’s Bend (curve 2) in an extreme way. The aerodynamics and low ground height of the GT have made the differential touch the piano, and this has ended up breaking the transmission. The car no longer accelerated, although it did go up in revolutions. Winkelhock has stopped in the middle of the climb and the world has fallen on him.
The last hour and a half has been crazy. Not because of overtaking, but because of how the long racing sauce has been slowly cooked: saving fuel.
The Porsche # 911 and the Mercedes AMG GT3 # 55 have led the rae since the green flag was given with 90 minutes left. With 22 laps behind them, they knew they had to stop again, so the drivers have squeezed every liter of fuel from their machines. The intention was to maximize the difference with the other cars, which have gone to a totally different strategy. And, there, appears Audi.
Audi only ha done car alive: #37. Robin Frijs, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor have not made much noise throughout the race. His presence in the leadership has been given by strategy, and less than an hour to the end. And they were not the favourites to win.
For fuel management, the favourite car to win was the Porsche # 911 mentioned. Romain Dumas, Fréderik Makowiecki and Dirk Werner have refueled as late as they could, and that has shortened the pit stop. In their personal fight with the Mercedes # 55, that shorter stop has earned them 14 seconds of advantage. They were the favourites, because everyone in front of them has set out to save fuel.
For them, we mean the Audi R8 # 37, the Mercedes AMG # 75 (Tristan Vautier, Jamie Whincup, Raffaele Marciello and Kevin Habul) and the Porsche # 991 (Earl Bamber, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor.) And with less intensity in that saving, the Porsche # 12 (Matt Campbell, Patrick Long, Alex Davison and David Calvert Jones).
As the minutes of the last hour have passed, times have increased. Clear fuel savings, until the Audi R8 # 69 and the MARC Mazda V8 # 95 have had an accident in Reid Park. The Audi has been crossed in the middle of the track and, at full speed, the Mercedes AMG # 19 has hit the back of the R8 in an evasive movement. Huge accident that has left the race with the safety car, and then red flag.
The confusion lasted ten minutes, time it has taken career direction to finish the race. And with that decision, the WRT team with the Audi R8 # 37 has won the 12 hours of Bathurst.
And the Bentleys? Well to be one of the favorite brands to win, to not be able to do anything to prevent a new disappointment in Bathurst. The first, and on the forehead: the Bentley # 18 has had problems in the gearbox in the first hours. After the repair, Maxime Soulet has fought to finish the race but a puncture has destroyed the options of seeing the checkered flag.
The right front Pirelli of the Continental GT3 has exploded on arrival at The Chase, the chicane behind the straight Conrod. Soulet has had to be rescued and, upon returning the car to the garage, he has opted to leave. Andy Soucek could not even drive.
The other Bentley, touched after the accident with the BMW # 43, was able to finish the race. The distance with the first has been more than six laps.
So one of the toughest races of the year ends. Bathurst is a place of legend, and today, although it has ended abruptly, the legend continues to be written: it is The Mountain who decides who the kings are. Because, yes, Mount Panorama has own life.