It’s been a hell of a week in the garages and boardrooms of this year’s LIQUI-MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour teams, with a huge host of teams finally announcing their final driver line-ups in anticipation for this year’s race. With just over 2 weeks until the green light goes on to commence Australia’s International Endurance Race, more and more teams are adding big-name, international drivers to their teams, filling out what was already a pretty stacked entry list featuring the likes of Timo Glock, Mark Skaife, Shane Van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes.
2017 marks the first year that Nissan are bringing 2 ‘Godzilla’ GT-R GT3s down under, following incredibly strong results in their first 2 outings at the Bathurst 12 Hour. Building on the incredibly successful teams that have already flown the Nissan banner at Mt Panorama in the last couple of years, NISMO are bringing 2015 winners Katsumaya Chiyo and Florian Strauss to be lead drivers on each GT-R respectively.
Joining Chiyo in the first car will be Nissan Supercar driver Michael Caruso and 2015 Blancpain Endurance champion Alex Buncome, while Supercars’ Todd Kelly and Nissan GT Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough will join Strauss in car number 2.
The head honchos at Porsche motorsport have clearly identified Walkinshaw GT3 as their best chance to reclaim their former glory at Mt Panorama, and as such they’ve provided some serious names to pilot their new, 2017-spec Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Key driver numero uno comes in the form of Earl Bamber, Bathurst 12 Hour regular and one of the most respected endurance racers in world motorsport. Bamber is of course most famous for piloting the Porsche LMP1 car to an overall victory at Le Mans, and now he joins Blancpain Endurance Series and FIA GT Series champion Laurens Vanthoor in Porsche’s quest for victory. Rounding off Walkinshaw’s incredibly strong team this year is Porsche factory driver Kevin Estre.
JAMEC-PEM have always been one of the heavyweights at the 12 Hour, and this year they’ve added their biggest ever roster to pilot their two brand-new Audi R8s. Both R8 LMS’ have been shipped over from Germany with barely a moment to spare in getting them ready to race, and all anyone knows about how they’re going to look is coming directly from JAMEC-PEM themselves.
Nonetheless, they have some serious firepower behind the wheel, a result of their long history of success and their position as an Audi factory-supported team. The first Audi will be piloted by Supercars champion Garth Tander along with Audi works drivers Christopher Mies (a 2-time 12 Hour Winner) and Christopher Haase. The 2nd JAMEC-PEM is set to feature the talents of former F1 driver Markus Winkelhock, DTM driver Frank Stippler and Audi factory driver Robert Frijns.
The Brits are back for another stab at the mountain. Following their first podium last year and a heartbreakingly close 4th place finish the year before, the usual suspects are coming down to Mt Panorama in the pursuit of Bentley’s first Bathurst 12 Hour title. This time though, they have a little extra driving talent to boast of.
Joining last year’s Bentley drivers Guy Smith, Steven Kane, Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek, ex-LMP1 driver Oliver Jarvis is set to join the team after a 9 year stint with Audi’s factory team. Finalising the 6-strong team is Vincent Avril, a 20-year old Frenchman who has enjoyed the last year racing for Bentley in the Blancpain GT series.
Objective are also bringing their strongest ever driver line-up to Bathurst, aiming to finally get the iconic black McLaren on the podium after a disappointing early exit last year. Team owner Tony walls will be racing, enabling Objective to gun for the Pro/am trophy, but he’s being backed up by some home-grown talent in the form of Sandown 500 champion Warren Luff, Supercars regular Tim Slade, and GT3 prospect Alex Davison.
Remember, you can still win a chance to catch all the action from the best possible spot by entering our fantastic LIQUI-MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour competition!
Featured Image: Speedhunters/Blake Jones