Ferrari leads at the three-hour mark
There was a lot of anticipation for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, opening round of the 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge, and the first three hours of racing on the Mount Panorama Circuit fulfilled all expectations.
Even before sunrise two potential candidates for the win fell victim to the demanding Bathurst track. Maxime Soulet hit the wall in the #8 Bentley Continental and even though the Bentley M-Sport team thought they got away with just a puncture, the right rear wheel bearing broke a couple of hours later.
A worse fate befell Frank Stippler in the #74 Audi R8 LMS. The German GT ace spun on top of the mountain, hit the wall hard and a couple of the cars behind him could not avoid contact. That was the end of the race for the #74 car, after only six laps.
In front polesitter Toni Vilander kept first position in the #88 Maranello Motorsport Ferrari, but an irregularity at one of the restarts saw the Finn punished with a drive-through penalty. That gave the #911 Porsche the lead, but they could not enjoy that position for long: after contact with another car, Earl Bamber had to park the car for good, due to steering rack issues.
That resulted in an exciting three-way fight between the #24 Nissan of Jann Mardenborough, the #22 Mercedes-AMG of Maro Engel and the #88 Ferrari, now with Craig Lowndes at the wheel. With his Zombiezilla Nissan – the car was almost written off after a heavy crash in practice – Mardenborough gave a masterful display of his driving skills.
After the next series of pitstops, the #88 Maranello Motorsport Ferrari managed to retake the lead, but the top-12 is separated by only half a minute. Just before the three hour-mark double Bathurst winner Christopher Mies was turned around at a restart and the #75 Audi was hit by another car. The second of the James Pem Racing suffered severe suspension damage and was out of contention for the win. Nine hours to go…
Follow the race live on www.intercontinentalgtchallenge.com/live !