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The dummy’s guide to the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour

Act like you watched the race with this handy, ten-part guide

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1. Ferrari won

Ferrari’s new 488 GT3 car seems like it’s coming into its own, with wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring and now Bathurst. Finnish driver Toni Vilander put on a star performance, taking the win from pole position in his first visit to the mountain. And that’s impressive. 

With just 40 minutes to go, the 488 (driven by teammate Jamie Whincup) moved on the leading Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Shane van Gisbergen at more than 170mph. Neck and neck at the fastest part of the circuit, van Gisbergen edged the Ferrari on to the grass. Luckily, Whincup (a local driver with a very full trophy cabinet) kept his cool through the following corners (the Chase and Murray’s Corner) to cement the lead. 

2. It was held at Mount Panorama

Mount Panorama is a racing circuit at Bathurst, which is not pronounced ‘Baaath-hurst’, but more along the lines of ‘BAH-thirst’. 

The track is 6.2km long – or about 3.85 miles. There’s a difference of 571ft between the track’s highest and lowest points, mostly because the track goes straight up a hill, squiggles about a bit and then comes barrelling back down again. 

3. Mount Panorama is basically an Australian Spa-Francorchamps

It’s most famous for the Bathurst 1000, which is where massive touring cars with V8 engines race for 1000km. It takes the so-called ‘V8 Supercars’ about six to seven hours to do 161 laps, with the lap record standing at a very respectable 2 minutes, 6.28 seconds. 

That said, the 12 Hour’s star is rising, with the race becoming more and more popular as it goes on. We’ve been (in 2012, if you were curious) and it’s one of the best motorsport spectacles in the Southern Hemisphere.  

4. It was really, really hot

The coldest it got throughout the race was still more than 20ºC, ramping up to 36ºC. And, unlike Bathurst 12 Hours past, it didn’t belt down with rain at any point, so there was little respite from track temperatures that topped 45ºC. So, warmish.

5. GT3 cars are faster than V8 Supercars

Local driver Shane van Gisbergen (yes, he’s a New Zealander, but Australians tend to claim the successful ones as their own) set a blistering lap of 2 minutes, 1.57 seconds in a McLaren 650S GT3 in last year’s 12 Hour. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he went on to win that race, completing 297 laps.   

This year, van Gisbergen drove for Mercedes-Benz, but a crash in the dying moments of the race meant his title defence was over. More on that in a bit. 

6. It wasn’t only GT3 cars racing

While GT3 cars were indeed the fastest, taking the top five places, the field was also open to GT4 racers, GT3 Cup cars (by which they mean Porsche 911-based racers) and roughly anything worthy of an invitation to race. So there was a 335i, Ginetta G55, KTM X-Bow and a V8-powered Ford Focus.   

7. International drivers love racing at Bathurst

Being an Antipodean event, the field was awash with Australian (and adopted Australian) drivers, but also featured the likes of Timo Glock, Marc Lieb, Toni Vilander and Markus Winkelhock.

Toni Vilander scored his first win at Bathurst, but certainly not his first win – he’s already taken class honours at Le Mans. 

Less happy was Maro Engel, who watched teammate Shane van Gisbergen punt the second-placed Mercedes-AMG GT3 into a lower-class Porsche with 31 minutes remaining, forcing him to take a drive-through penalty. Then, while trying to make up for lost time, van Gisbergen ploughed into a wall up the top of the mountain, ending their race with just 20 minutes to go.

8. There were many crashes

As befits an endurance race, mistakes, crashes and failures were a seemingly constant fixture. Not even veterans of the Mountain were immune.

The notoriously difficult mountain section was responsible for the bulk of the humbling moments, but even the more open sections of the track, from the high-speed Chase to Griffin’s Bend, still claimed unwary and exhausted drivers. It was the Dipper, a steeply descending part of the Esses, that claimed van Gisbergen’s Mercedes, allowing a Porsche GT3 to take second place and Bentley’s GT3 racer to take third. 

9. Bathurst is a car killer

The X-Bow and a Lamborghini caught fire, one Nismo GT3 broke its gearbox and the other broke its floor. The BMW M6 had power steering issues, and a McLaren 650S turned its engine into molten lava during practice, thanks to an errant bolt that punched a hole in the rocker cover. Even the winning 488 had teething issues ahead of the race.

In total, 43 laps were done under safety car conditions, with 32 cars finishing from a starting field of 52.

10. Everything we’ve told you is just scratching the surface

Twelve hours of racing, with more than 150 drivers running with varying strategies, varying cars and varying levels of success, means that any rundown on the event throws about 99 per cent of the detail away and just presents the highlight reel. And, without pontificating too much, you really have to experience endurance racing for yourself – preferably at the track – to truly understand how special it really is. 

Tell your friends that last bit while looking off into the middle distance with a pensive, almost forlorn, look on your face. They’ll probably buy it.

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