The 2016 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour has the honour to open the newly created Intercontinental GT Challenge. Some of the motorsports’ world most prestigious manufacturers have taken up the gauntlet in this first-ever global GT3 Series, and will compete for a historic first win in the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the Total 24 Hours of Spa and the Sepang 12 Hours: these are the three endurance classics that will decide the outcome of the first Intercontinental GT Challenge. The journey starts this weekend, on the gruelling Mount Panorama circuit.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race was recreated in 2007 and its splendour has grown ever since. Many a top GT-driver has put the Australian race on their bucket list and those who have tackled the mountain in the past are always happy to return to the 6.2 km rollercoaster.
To compete in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, manufacturers have to enter through the teams using their cars. At the end of the season there will be three titles: the Intercontinental GT Challenge overall title for Manufacturers, the Intercontinental GT Challenge overall title for Drivers (awarded to the driver with the most points, driving for a single manufacturer) and the Intercontinental GT Challenge AM title for Bronze drivers, who can drive for any manufacturer or combination of manufacturers.
A manufacturer may nominate a maximum of four cars to be counted towards the Intercontinental GT Challenge overall title at each of the races, but only the top two scoring cars of each manufacturer will count towards the Manufacturers’ title. All drivers in cars entered in the overall Intercontinental GT Challenge will score points towards the overall Drivers title.
In Bathurst, four manufacturers have entered cars for the Intercontinental GT Challenge: Audi, Bentley, McLaren and Mercedes. Audi is represented by two cars from the Melbourne Performance Center and one from Phoenix Racing. The latter will certainly get its fair share of attention from the photographers, with its unique Australian Indigenous livery. The three new R8 LMS cars, making their debut at Mount Panorama, will have to face two Bentleys entered by Team M-Sport. On one of the two Continentals – the #31 car that last year, on its debut, fought until the last lap for the win in Bathurst – factory drivers Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet will get the company of V8 Superstar driver David Russell, whereas Guy Smith and Steven Kane team up with Matt Bell.
At Mercedes, Mishumotors (#33 SLS AMG GT3) and Erebus Motorsport (cars #36 and #63) will try to repeat their 2013 win. Bernd Schneider and Thomas Jäger – then sharing the winning car with Alexander Roloff – are now each on one of the Erebus cars. McLaren squad Tekno Motorsports enters two 650S, and with Shane Van Gisbergen, Alvaro Parente and Rob Bell they have three factory drivers at the wheel. McLaren Young Driver Andrew Watson, team owner Jonathan Webb and V8 Supercars race winner Will Davison are their team-mates in Bathurst. There are two more McLarens racing for points in the Intercontinental GT Challenge: the #11 McElrea Racing 650S and the #37 Keltic Racing machine.
All twelve cars have familiar names onboard, and there are several former Blancpain GT and Endurance Series Champions (Laurens Vanthoor, Christopher Mies and Christopher Haase – all Audi) and former winners of the Total 24 Hours of Spa such as Markus Winkelhock, Bernd Schneider and René Rast among the drivers competing for Intercontinental GT Challenge points.
Add to that the presence of several more stalwarts of the Blancpain GT Series among the drivers of the 37-car strong field, and it is clear that the 2016 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will be a fitting start to the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Stephane Ratel (Founder and CEO of the SRO Motorsports Group): « At SRO we are very proud to start the first global GT3 Series with the support of several of the biggest manufacturers on the motorsports planet and I am convinced that others will join us later in the season. We have the firm intention to grow the Intercontinental GT Challenge to four events in 2017. I am very much looking forward to the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and to see how some of the best GT drivers in the world will start a new chapter in the history of GT racing. I would like to take this opportunity to thank James Warburton, CEO V8 Supercars and John Casey, Event Director Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour for having made their event part of the Challenge. »