POLE sitter Maranello Motorsport has taken out an action-packed Bathurst 12 Hour race, with the Ferrari 488 GT3 of Craig Lowndes, Toni Vilander and Jamie Whincup crossing the line first to take victory.
It shaped up to be an incredible battle in the final hour between Supercars teammates Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen, who was driving the Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes AMG, shared with Craig Baird and Maro Engel.
Contact with a slower car by van Gisbergen was the beginning of the end of their race however, with the incident causing a safety car and a drive through penalty being issued to the reigning champ.
Before the team even had the chance to tell him about the penalty though, the Kiwi spun on the first lap of the restart as he pushed hard to keep up with Whincup – hitting the wall in the Esses and ending his race.
According to now two-time champion Lowndes, it proves how tough the event is.
“It’s never easy to come to a place like this. We had our problems through the day but the car was strong and we did our bit,” Lowndes said.
Whincup, who is now a winner on debut said he’s won over by GT racing.
“It was a great day for us. It’s my debut in GT racing. Massive thank you to Maranello. Fantastic day, fantastic teamwork,” Whincup said. “I’m no lone ranger, it’s been an amazing team effort… I guess we had beginners luck today. First time, and to stand on the top step is a fantastic feeling.”
Whincup also saw the irony in his battle with van Gisbergen.
“It’s quite ironic that it was me and my teammate Gizzy battling it out,” he said. “They are great cars. I couldn’t believe the traffic. It’s a long day but I’ll certainly be back for sure.”
Vilander said Maranello put the hard yards in.
“It’s a big thing. I was fed up with all the stories about Mika Salo being the only Finn to win here!” Vilander said. “Behind the victory there is always a lot of hard work. I’m really honoured to be involved in this team.”
“Sometimes you have those days with a clear track. The traffic was dropping in the right places and the car was perfect. Sometimes when you’re fast it feels easier, and today was one of those days. Sometimes you have the feeling at the start of the weekend that something good will happen, and here we are.”
Second place went to the Porsche GT3 R of Marc Lieb, Matt Campbell, Pat Long and David Calvert-Jones with the Bentley Continental of Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Oliver Jarvis.
The Bathurst 12 Hour makes up the opening round of the new Intercontinental GT Challenge which also includes the Spa 24 Hour, Sepang 12 Hour and an eight-hour race at Mazda Raceway, Laguna Seca.
Pictures courtesy of Rhys Vandersyde and InSyde Media.