BENTLEY has become the seventh manufacturer to win the Bathurst 12-Hour in the GT era, with the Team M-Sport Continental GT of Jules Gounon/Maxime Soulet/Jordan Pepper holding out the #999 of Raffaele Marciello/Felipe Fraga/Maximilian Buhk for the victory.
After not turning off the engine in the final stop, a post-race penalty relegated the #999 back to sixth, handing second place to McLaren’s Alvaro Parente/Ben Barnicoat/Tom Blomqvist.
The #888 Shane van Gisbergen/Jamie Whincup/Maximilian Götz entry rounded out the podium, just one second ahead of last year’s winner Matt Campbell, and fellow drivers Mathieu Jaminet and Patrick Pilet, in the #911 Absolute Racing Porsche GT3 R.
Despite a tyre issue in the final 90-minutes of the enduro, the #7 Continental GT completed 313 laps to record a total distance of 1,945km – setting a new distance record for the event in the process.
“It’s a huge relief for Bentley, and I’m happy to share the car with these two. Really excited to get this win,” Soulet said of the victory.
“This is definitely the biggest win of my career. It was so special. The last few hours, I knew we were in for a fight with the #999,” admitted Pepper.
Rain loomed for the final two hours, with bolts of lightning visible from the track in the final 15-minutes, however, a downpour never eventuated until the chequered flag was waved – with the heavens opening up to shower the winner.
It wasn’t all smiles though in the Bentley M-Sport garage, with the #8 of Alex Buncombe/Oliver Jarvis/Sebastian Morris out around the 10th hour mark after it lost a tyre.
Tyre issues were the theme of the day, with no less than half-a-dozen cars having tyre problems throughout the event – including the Gruppe-M Mercedes-AMG of Raffaele Marciello with just 10 minutes to go.
Audi had one of its worst years at the Mountain, with the three-time winning marque not even finishing on the lead lap – despite five entries.
Tension was high in the Audi garage after teammates collided, sending Garth Tander into the wall at what was the weekend’s most treacherous spot – Skyline. Despite the car being badly damaged, the former full-time Supercars driver was okay.
The Bathurst 12-Hour is the opening round of the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge, with the next round taking place at the 24 Hours of Spa in July.