Mercedes-AMG aims high for Bathurst 12-hour
Six Mercedes-AMG GT3 racers form the largest contingent from any single manufacturer in in the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour race, to be held from 31 January to 2 February at Mount Panorama, Bathurst.
The cars – three running in elite Class A Pro, one in Silver Cup and three in Pro-Am – join a record 40-car field that includes 11 manufacturers. After finishing on the podium in 2018 and 2019, Mercedes-AMG has its sights firmly set on the top step of the podium in the race that kicks off the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge, Powered by Pirelli, starting at 5.45am on Sunday, 2 February.
The 2019 12-Hour marked the Bathurst debut of Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing, with its #999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 finishing third in a dramatic conclusion to the race. This year Maximilian Buhk (GER) and Raffaele Marciello (ITA) return in a new GT3 car along with Felipe Fraga (BRA) who will make his Bathurst debut as the reigning GTD endurance champion of the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Fourth in 2019 was Triple Eight Race Engineering’s #888 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Returning this year as an independent team with full factory support from Mercedes-AMG as well as a new GT3 car, Triple Eight will field its two Supercars star drivers, Jamie Whincup (AUS) and Shane van Gisbergen (NZ), along with Maximilian Götz (GER), who last year drove in the #999 entry.
Also running in the Pro category with full factory support and a new GT3 is Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing, with international sports car stars Maro Engel (GER), Luca Stolz (GER) joined this year by Yelmer Buurman (NED) in the #77 entry.
In the Silver Cup, the #46 Team Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be piloted by Patrick Assenheimer (GER) and Sergej Afanasiev (RUS), with a third driver TBA.
Leading the charge in the Pro-Am category will be Team SunEnergy1 Racing, which finished second overall in the 2018 race with a factory-backed Mercedes-AMG GT3. Tackling the 2020 race in a Customer Racing GT3 (#75) will be 2018 IGTC Bronze title winner Kenny Habul (AUS), Dominik Baumann (AUT), Martin Konrad (AUT) and Supercars star driver David Reynolds (AUS), the winner of the 2017 Bathurst 1000 touring car race.
Triple Eight Race Engineering will field a second GT3 (#777) in the competitive Pro-Am class, driven by Yasser Shahin (AUS), Sam Shahin (AUS), Nick Foster (AUS) and rising Supercars star Anton de Pasquale (AUS).
Three Class A Pro teams with extended works support will race the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 racing car that has already made a successful debut at Dubai: Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing (#77), Triple Eight Race Engineering (#888) and GruppeM Racing (#999).
Mercedes says the new GT3 racer, released in late 2019, features a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine that requires fewer rebuilds each season, an improved frontal crash structure to better mitigate low-speed impacts, a digital component tracking system, engine auto-start when the inbuilt air jacks are released, plus tweaks to suspension and handling settings.
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing, said the company is looking forward to Bathurst and the starts of the International GT Challenge season full of anticipation.
“The circuit at Mount Panorama is tailor-made for a spectacular season opener and the record field is giving the event even more prestige than it has already. Having scored impressive achievements in the IGTC in 2019 and eventually having managed to secure runner-up spot in the drivers’ and manufacturers’ standings, it is obvious that we want to be on the top step this year. To do so, we have a top line-up of teams and drivers.
“Of course, at the same time, we are well aware that the IGTC is attracting the world’s best drivers and manufacturers every year and that, therefore, we will be faced with huge competition in the battle for the championship, but that is exactly what we are looking forward to.”
Triple Eight Race Engineering driver, Jamie Whincup, said he is always excited to race at Mount Panorama. “The event is getting bigger and better every year. I’m one of the most patriotic people you’ll meet and it makes me really proud to see so many teams from around the world coming to Bathurst and holding it in such high regard. Everyone wants to win this race, so no doubt it’s going to be ultra-competitive again this year.”