The #59 Tekno Autosports McLaren has taken victory in a fiercely competitive 2016 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which had a record 29 lead changes across the day. Katsumasa Chiyo in the 2015 winning #1 NISMO Athlete Global Team Nissan GT-R threw everything he had at ‘the Gis’ to cut the gap from eight seconds with five minutes to go to just 1.27s shy of the win at the finish line after an epic all-day battle. Third outright went to the #10 Mobil 1/Naim Audio/Breitling Bentley.
The final change for the lead came with just 50 minutes remaining on the clock, with van Gisbergen taking over the lead from Nissan’s Katsumasa Chiyo on lap 273 when the Nissan completed its last stop for the day. Eight different entries held the race lead across the day, and five different manufactures made up the top five – McLaren, Nissan, Bentley, Audi, Mercedes.
Taking home the win for the classes was the #4 Grove Racing Porsche (Class B), the #5 GT Motorsport Audi (Class A – GT3 AM) and the #93 MARC Cars Australia Focus, with the #4 and #93 having controlled their classes from start to finish today.
It was a race of attrition for the field, with only 21 entries classified as finishers after 37 started the race 12 hours earlier.
For a wrap of how hours ten to twelve unfolded, please read on. A full race report is to come. In the meantime, for full results please go to http://bathurst12hour.com.au/event-info/2016-results
Ten minutes in to the tenth hour and the race was restarted following the Safety Car for the #63 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes, with 225 laps completed and 2h 50m remaining at that point.
The #10 Mobil 1/Naim Audio/Breitling Bentley lead the way with Matthew Bell at the wheel, chased by the #1 NISMO Athlete Global Team Nissan GT-R, with a great battle for the lead unfolding while at the same time the fifth placed David Reynolds battled vainly to get the #36 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes back on the lead lap.
Ten minutes of green running would occur, before the 11th Safety Car was called – this time for the #94 CCV Australia MARC Mazda 3, which had stopped on the run up to the Mountain coming into turn 3.
After the SC was called, the #49 Defelice Homes Ferrari traversed the pit lane for a black flag penalty for a restart issue, however would be made to re-serve the penalty after the next restart as you cannot serve a penalty under a caution period.
At 3.18pm the race would be restarted ever so briefly, with just a minute of running occurring before the next SC was called when the #69 Patisserie Valerie Porsche made heavy multiple contacts with the wall over the top of the hill, with the car doing its job to protect driver Paul May.
Both the #1 Nissan and the #36 Mercedes would take this opportunity to pit towards the tail-end of this safety period, with Reynolds handing over to Nico Bastien.
With just over two hours remaining, five manufactures are in the top five – Bentley, McLaren, Audi, Nissan and Mercedes Benz.
The race was restarted with two hours and ten minutes remaining, and 238 laps completed at xxx. Jonathon Webb in the #59 McLaren lead at this point, with Shane van Gisbergen waiting to take over after the 2h 5m mark.
In an impressive move, the #1 Nissan passed the #2 Phoenix Racing Audi and Laurens Vanthoor for second place, with Katsumasa Chiyo pulling off the move on the grass, before proceeding to dramatically cut into the lead of Webb. Chiyo’s drive in the final stages to take victory in the 2015 event last year has become almost legendary, and it is evident he was ready to do it all over again this time around.
At 3.44pm, and 2h and 1m remaining, the Webb brought in the #59 Tekno Autosports McLaren to the pits, handing over to Shane van Gisbergen in a sluggish stop, who will take the fight to the finish.
With two hours remaining, Katsumasa Chiyo lead the way in the #1 Nissan, 3.2 seconds ahead of the #2 Audi of Laurens Vanthoor. Guy Smith in the #10 Bentley was third on the road, with van Gisbergen the last on the lead lap in fourth. Leading their class were the #5 GT Motorsport Audi (GT3-AM), the #4 Grove Hire Porsche (B) and the #93 MARC Cars Australia Focus. Nineteen cars were active on the race track after 37 had started the race this morning.
In a shocking twist for the Tekno Autosport team, the #59 entry was served with the black flag penalty for speeding in the pit lane during the pit stop in which Webb handed over to ‘the Gis’, with the penalty for outbound speeding to dropping the contender down a lap with less than two hours remaining in the race for the win.
The frustration of van Gisbergen was evident, with the Kiwi pushing exceptionally hard over the next lap before serving the penalty – and it paid off, with the V8 Supercar driver being able to ensure that after serving the penalty the #59 remained on the lead lap by courtesy of the time he had made.
With just over an hour and a half to go on the clock, the safety car was again required for the 13th time today. The #40 Handley Surveys Audi R8 suffering a right rear puncture to be stranded on the exit of turn two – before the tyre delamination, the #40 was second in the GT3-AM Class, but will now take no longer part.
With the safety car in operation, van Gisbergen took advantage of the situation to undertake a pit stop for a top up of fuel.
At 2.26pm, the race restarted, and it was a flurry of activity with the leaders navigating lapped traffic.
After the first lap of running under the green flag, the Nissan lead over the #2 Audi by 2.9 seconds, with the third placed #10 Bentley 4.5 seconds shy of the leader, with van Gis 12 seconds down the road from the #1 in fourth and on the lead lap.
With just over an hour remaining, final pit-stops to set-up the run to the flag began, first with the #2 Audi for fuel and a drink for Vanthoor, and then for the #59 with van Gisbergen getting fuel into his McLaren.
While Vanthoor had been in second-position and van Gisbergen fourth when they approached the lane, following their stops the #59 advanced to second third on the road, ahead of fourth-placed Vanthoor. In second was Guy Smith in the #10 Bentley, however a stop would be required for a driver change with Smith approaching his maximum driving time.
With 55 minutes remaining, the Bentley Team made their move, bringing the #10 in from second place for a driver change and fuel, with Steven Kane taking over the run to the end in third position with van Gis moving through to second-position and ready to put chase to Chiyo, who continued to lead in the #1 Nissan.
At the 50 minute mark, the #1 Nissan is brought into the pit lane by Chiyo, in what should be the final stop for the leaders. The team checked over the car while fuel went in, and van Gisbergen went to the lead.
Chiyo re-joined in second position and 12.7 seconds adrift of the #59, amidst reports of a small amount of something leaking from the Nissan on the right hand corners.
The Mountain wasn’t finished throwing everything it had at its racers just yet however, with the stroke of 5.00pm seeing a delaminated tyre for the #40 Handley Surveys Audi R8 over the top of the Mountain, however it would get off the track to avoid a 14th safety car period.
With sixteen minutes left, Chiyo set the fastest car for the #1 entry of the entire day, showing he was not yet ready to give up on the 14 second gap between himself and van Gisbergen as the clock continued to wind down. At the same time, the third placed Bentley had established a nine second lead over the Audi. Over the coming laps, Chiyo would steadily cut the gap down to be just 12.1 seconds shy of the #59 as the final 10 minutes began.
With five minutes remaining, Chiyo turned it up, cutting four seconds over four minutes to be eight seconds adrift, and then cutting even further to be within five seconds of the leader as the final lap commenced.
By the end of the final lap, Chiyo would draw right behind van Gisbergen to be just 1.27 seconds shy of the win as they crossed the finish line and he wouldn’t be able this time to pull off the last-minute win that he achieved for his team in 2015.