Pirelli heads to one of the most iconic venues on the international calendar this weekend: the Bathurst 12 Hours, held at Mount Panorama in New South Wales, west of Sydney. This is the first round of the newly created Intercontinental GT Challenge, which takes in other classic tracks such as Spa-Francorchamps.
Bathurst is Australia’s answer to the fabled Nurburgring: a swooping mountain track that takes no prisoners and provides both drivers and fans with a thrilling spectacle. Inaugurated in 1938, it is Australia’s premier race venue, ranking alongside the Australian Grand Prix, which is also of course supplied by Pirelli.
The Bathurst 12 Hours attracts the top GT cars from the world’s leading premium and prestige manufacturers, most of whom use Pirelli tyres as original equipment on their road cars. Bathurst also welcomes some of the best-known drivers from global endurance racing, who come to Australia to race alongside the top names from the local V8 Touring Car series.
Pirelli has a long history of success at these demanding blue riband events all over the world, with the unique characteristics of tracks like Spa, the Nurburgring and Bathurst showcasing perfectly the advanced tyre technology that also goes into P Zero road car products, as seen on the world’s most desirable marques. Pirelli currently holds the Bathurst lap record, set in 2014 with McLaren.
Many of these prestigious manufacturers will be competing in Bathurst over the weekend, with Pirelli equipping two McLarens and two Audis, both of which will be crewed by factory drivers, among other entrants using the Italian tyres.
In particular the number 59 McLaren 650S will be driven by New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, who has excelled in the national V8 championship as well as in the Blancpain GT Series, which is exclusively supplied by Pirelli. The number 60 McLaren will be driven by Will Davison, amongst others, who is another leading light of the V8 Series. Factory drivers Alvaro Parente and Rob Bell also boost the McLaren line-up.
Audi is also fielding several examples of the ultra successful R8 LMS, which can count victory at the Nurburgring 24 Hours and the recent Daytona 24 Hours among its many triumphs. The number 74 R8 will be driven by factory drivers Christopher Mies, Christopher Haase and Marco Mapelli. The sister number 75 car will be piloted by the equally illustrious line up of Garth Tander, Rene Rast, and Steve MacLaughlin. Rast – the winner at Daytona for Audi in GTD – replaces Australia’s most famous V8 driver, Craig Lowndes, who broke his collarbone in a recent motocross accident.
Pirelli will bring an evolution of its medium compound P Zero tyre, which was already used at the Macau Grand Prix last year. The new DMC P Zero for Bathurst is designed to maximise performance and grip in the notoriously changeable weather conditions of the Mount Panorama circuit, which has a uniquely smooth surface, without compromising consistency. Another characteristic of Bathurst is the way that it alternates fast and slow sections, making it a perfect all-round challenge for tyres.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: « Bathurst is one of those great prestige names in motorsport, right up there with events such as Le Mans and Indy. We’re naturally delighted to be associated with this ultimate test of driving in the Southern Hemisphere, on a spectacular track that has to be seen to be believed, together with manufacturers such as Audi and McLaren. We’ve made a specific tyre that will suit this circuit well, in the same way that we make bespoke tyres for each manufacturer’s road cars. In endurance racing though, the tyres are actually the same for all the competitors, which allows us to demonstrate the versatility as well as the performance of the product. »