The Bathurst 12 Hour, currently known as the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour for sponsorship reasons, is an endurance race for GT and production cars held at the Mount Panorama Circuit, in Bathurst, Australia. It is an annual race, taking place every February. The race was first held in 1991 for Series Production cars and moved to Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway in 1995 before being discontinued. The race was revived in 2007, again for production cars, before adding a new class for GT3 and other GT cars in 2011. This has led to unprecedented domestic and international exposure for the event. In all, eighteen races have taken place; seventeen at Mount Panorama and one at Eastern Creek Raceway.
The event was inspired by the long-running Bathurst 500 production car race, which began at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Victoria in 1960 (before moving to Bathurst in 1963) as a race for standard production cars with minimal modifications. In 1973 when the race was lengthened from 500 miles to 1000 kilometres, the regulations for cars entering the race changed from standard "series production" cars to improved touring cars. The Bathurst 12 Hour was intended to re-create the original feel of the Bathurst 1000, while providing a unique test in the longer race distance, rather than replicating the 1000 kilometre event.
In 1990, Vincent Tesoriero, a race promoter and former Bathurst 1000 competitor, looked at the decline of Group A touring cars in Australia and saw an opportunity to run a 12-hour endurance race for Series Production cars at Mount Panorama. Tesoriero secured long time Bathurst 1000 sponsor James Hardie as a sponsor for the event in late 1990, leaving limited time to launch and organise the event for the Easter weekend in 1991. The race regulations were based on the Group 3E Series Production Car rules then in use in the Australian Production Car Championship for naturally aspirated four- and six-cylinder passenger sedans, but also allowed turbocharged and V8-engined cars which had been outlawed from the Production Car Championship in 1990. Despite the short deadline, twenty-four cars were entered for the first race, spread over six different classes based on engine capacity and sporting specification. Exotic mid-engined sports cars and GT cars were not eligible to enter.
The race was originally scheduled to run from 9am to 9pm but this was disallowed by Bathurst Regional Council. The race would instead run from 5:15am to 5:15pm, with the final two hours televised by Network Ten. Despite the event's length, the competitors proved extremely reliable, with twenty cars finishing the race. The race was won by Allan Grice, and racing Fitzgerald's 1989 Production Car Championship specification Toyota Supra Turbo.
In 1992, manufacturer-backed teams began to appear with large teams entered and funded by Mazda, Holden, Citroën and Peugeot. Porsche would also provide factory support from 1993 onwards. Honda, Nissan, Maserati, BMW and Lotus were also represented but not by factory-supported teams. The Mazda team would go on to dominate the event with the Mazda RX-7, winning the next three consecutive races at Mount Panorama.
After no major race for production cars for a number of years, the concept was revived with the short-lived Bathurst 24 Hour races in 2002 and 2003. The races were run by Nations Cup owners PROCAR and were dominated by the Holden Monaro 427Cs of Garry Rogers Motorsport. The Bathurst 24 Hour only lasted two years before PROCAR owner Ross Palmer was forced to abandon the race due to rising costs.
The Bathurst 12 Hour was successfully revived in 2007 as part of the Bathurst Motorsport Festival While James O'Brien, who masterminded the return of the event, planned for GT cars to share the event with production cars, the return of the race began with regulations close to its original concept as a race for production cars. 32 cars were entered for the 2007 race, which was won by , Paul Morris and Craig Baird in a BMW 335i. The win was ten years after Morris and Baird had won the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000 in a BMW only to later be disqualified for exceeding driver time regulations. The race proved a preview of this period of the race, which saw BMW and Mitsubishi as the main combatants. The 2007 Subaru entry of rally drivers Chris Atkinson, Dean Herridge and Cody Crocker would be the only other manufacturer to finish the race in the top two between 2007 and 2010.
The 2008 and 2009 races were won by Mitsubishi Lancers, with Rod Salmon and Damien White amongst both line-ups. The 2009 race was particularly dominated by Mitsubishi, with the marque finishing in the first four positions. Garry Holt would then repeat his 2007 victory in 2010, driving again with Morris and also with John Bowe. The race was interrupted for an hour after a tree fell across Conrod Straight. The number of entries grew over this production-based period, peaking at 48 in 2009, while the final race held strictly to production car regulations in 2010 attracted 42 entries. During this time, the event itself grew in stature each year, firmly entrenching itself as one of the biggest race meetings at the start of the domestic Australian racing season, along with the Adelaide 500 and the Australian Grand Prix.
In 2011, GT3-specification cars were allowed into the 12 hour race for the first time. Despite this, the number of entries dropped dramatically as many of the production car teams, disillusioned by the move towards GT, decided not to race. Of the 26 cars that competed in 2011, just eight raced in the production car classes, compared with the 42 that made up the full 2010 field. The German-based Joest Racing dominated the 2011 event, with the team's two Audi R8 LMS GT3s finishing first and second, a lap ahead of the third-placed Porsche. 2012 saw another small field of just 25 cars. Audi won the race for the second consecutive year, this time with DTM and FIA GT1 team Phoenix Racing.
The 2013 event ended the two-year run of poor entry numbers, with a record field of over 50 cars. Another first for the event saw the opening round of the 2013 Australian GT Championship incorporated into the first hour of the race. The results of the GT Championship round were based on the positions of the cars that had elected to race for GT Championship points at the end of the first hour of racing. Teams could then either continue on and complete the full race, or withdraw their car after the first hour. Drivers were allowed to cross-enter between cars so that they could race one car in the one-hour GT Championship race and then drive another car that was entered for the full 12 hours. Erebus Motorsport took the first win for an Australian team under the GT regulations with German drivers Bernd Schneider, Thomas Jäger and taking their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG to victory.
Maranello Motorsport took a poignant win in the 2014 event—the team's former driver Allan Simonsen was killed in a crash at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans—with V8 Supercar driver Craig Lowndes holding off a late charge from German driver Maximilian Buhk to take victory. 2014 also saw the introduction of the Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy, named in honour of Simonsen, to be awarded to the fastest car in qualifying. The 2015 race featured a record twenty safety car periods, the last coming just minutes from the end of the race. Katsumasa Chiyo, driving a Nissan GT-R, took the lead with two laps remaining to give Nissan its first major victory at Mount Panorama since the 1992 Bathurst 1000.
In August 2015, the V8 Supercars-owned company Supercars Events purchased 50% of the Bathurst 12 Hour, joining existing part-owners Bathurst Regional Council. This followed a date clash between the 2015 12 Hour and V8 Supercars' 2015 pre-season test day which saw V8 Supercar drivers, such as 2014 12 Hour-winner Lowndes, forced to take part in the test day and be unable to race in the 12 Hour. With an increasing focus on the outright GT3 cars and a dwindling number of production cars in the race, the former organisers of the 12 Hour, Yeehah Events, announced the production car-based Bathurst 6 Hour for 2016, to restore a Bathurst endurance race for the production category. The 6 Hour is now part of the Bathurst Motor Festival at Easter.
Intercontinental GT Challenge
The 2016 race was the inaugural race of the newly formed Intercontinental GT Challenge, which in its first year also included the Sepang 12 Hours and Spa 24 Hours and is managed by the Stéphane Ratel Organisation. The event itself saw record pace from Shane van Gisbergen in qualifying and the race to lead his Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S GT3 to victory alongside McLaren factory driver Álvaro Parente and Tekno team owner/driver Jonathon Webb. The 2017 event saw the introduction of an all-pro GT3 class for the first time, with the race receiving 55 entries, the highest in the event's revival. In the race itself, Maranello Motorsport repeated their 2014 triumph, with Finnish driver Toni Vilander teaming up with Lowndes and Jamie Whincup to receive the Australian Tourist Trophy, which became the perpetual trophy for the outright winner.
The 2018 race finished before the twelve hour duration due to a major crash at Sulman Park involving Ash Walsh, Bryce Fullwood and John Martin which saw Walsh and Martin transported to hospital. This meant that the Audi Sport Team WRT entry of Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor took the flag, despite doubts over whether they had the fuel to win the race if there was no disruption. In 2019, the race had unprecedented amounts of green flag running leading to a distance record being set. After dropping from first to fourth in the final pit-stop phase, Matt Campbell completed three overtakes, including one on Chaz Mostert that required a post-race investigation, to take Porsche's first victory in the race alongside Dennis Olsen and Dirk Werner.
The 2020 race again broke the distance record with Bentley taking their first victory in the event in six attempts. The field was reduced by five cars prior to the race with several heavy crashes in practice and qualifying. The race is on hiatus until 2022 due to international travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Events which were not held at Mount Panorama Circuit are indicated by a pink background.
^1 – The 1995 race was staged at Eastern Creek Raceway as the 1995 Eastern Creek 12 Hour.
^2 – The 2010 race was red flagged for approximately an hour after a tree fell across Conrod Straight and had to be removed.
^3 – The 2018 race was red flagged on lap 273 following a multi-car accident at Sulman Park at 5:25 PM, with twenty minutes remaining in the race. As the debris was unable to be cleared to allow the race to restart before the deadline of 5:43 PM (race regulations state the race starts at 5:45 AM and ends with one full completed lap once the leader crosses the finish line after 5:43 PM), the race results were backdated to lap 271 meaning that two of the three cars involved in the incident were classified.
^4 – Race record for laps & distance covered.
|3||John Bowe||1995, 2010, 2014|
|2||Garry Waldon||1992, 1993|
|Rod Salmon||2008, 2009|
|Damien White||2008, 2009|
|Garry Holt||2007, 2010|
|Paul Morris||2007, 2010|
|Christopher Mies||2011, 2012|
|Darryl O'Young||2011, 2012|
|Craig Lowndes||2014, 2017|
|4||Mazda||1992, 1993, 1994, 1995|
|3||Audi||2011, 2012, 2018|
Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy
In 2014, a trophy was introduced for the fastest time in qualifying, named after Allan Simonsen who died at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans. Simonsen, who had raced several times in Australia as part of a long and varied career, held the Bathurst 12 Hour race lap record at the time, as well as driving the fastest officially timed lap around Mount Panorama in a closed-wheel car. The introduction of the trophy coincided with the relaxing of qualifying restrictions from previous years, with the removal of the minimum allowed lap time (two minutes and six seconds), therefore allowing a major improvement in qualifying times. Despite the name, the trophy is given to the fastest qualifying time, not the car that starts on pole position in the case of a grid penalty, as initially occurred in 2019.
In 2014, Simonsen's former team at the 12 Hour, Maranello Motorsport, narrowly missed pole to Maro Engel by less than a tenth of a second. Maranello went on to win the race itself. In 2015, Laurens Vanthoor set the fastest ever officially recorded time of Mount Panorama in qualifying. This time was only to last twelve months, with Shane van Gisbergen beating the time by over one second in qualifying for the 2016 race. In 2017 a top ten shootout was introduced, as per the Bathurst 1000, with the fastest time winning the trophy. In 2018, Chaz Mostert became the first Australian to take the trophy as well as making BMW the fifth manufacturer to win the trophy in the five years since its inception.
The 2019 battle for the trophy had several twists, with the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 of Jake Dennis initially taking the trophy after setting the fastest time in the Top 10 Shootout, despite a two-place grid penalty that he had earlier received for pit-lane speeding. Later, the car was excluded from the Top 10 Shootout for a technical infringement, granting the trophy to the Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Raffaele Marciello.
NOTE: no race in 2021.
|2014||Maro Engel||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3||Erebus Motorsport||2:03.8586|
|2015||Laurens Vanthoor||Audi R8 LMS Ultra||Phoenix Racing||2:02.5521|
|2016||Shane van Gisbergen||McLaren 650S GT3||Tekno Autosports||2:01.2860|
|2017||Toni Vilander||Ferrari 488 GT3||Maranello Motorsport||2:02.8610|
|2018||Chaz Mostert||BMW M6 GT3||BMW Team Schnitzer||2:01.9340|
|2019||Raffaele Marciello||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Team GruppeM Racing||2:02.9348|
|2020||Matt Campbell||Porsche 911 GT3 R||Absolute Racing||2:03.5554|
In the early days of the race in the 1990s, the race was broadcast on free-to-air television by Network Ten. On the race's return, the race was broadcast initially as a highlights package on SBS as well as being streamed online. In 2012, the event received its first live coverage since the 1990s, with Speed airing the final 90 minutes of the race, as well as producing a three-hour highlights package. Since the 2013 event, which was not broadcast live on television, commentary has been provided by Radio Show Limited who broadcast every session live on Radio Le Mans, building an international audience for the event. In 2014, RSL provided their commentary to SBS, who broadcast the final three hours of the race live on free-to-air. From 2015 onwards, the entire race has been broadcast live on the Seven Network and 7mate, still in partnership with RSL, and has continued to be streamed online. In 2020, pay television channel Fox Sports and its streaming service Kayo Sports broadcast the event in addition to 7mate.
The estimated viewing audience for the 2014 race was over half a million people from 150 countries.
- 1991–94: James Hardie
- 2007–09: Wright Patton Shakespeare (WPS)
- 2010–12: Armor All
- 2013–2020, 2022–: Liqui Moly
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