Pole: Chaz Mostert, Augusto Farfus and Marco Wittman
Winner: Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor
Runners-up: Kenny Habul, Tristan Vautier, Jamie Whincup, Raffaele Marciello.
Third: Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz, Marc Lieb
The Audi Sport Team WRT managed to break its run of poor form and finally secure a victory in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race, however it wasn’t the way they would have hoped or expected.
Representing the Belgian team was Dutchman Robin Frijns, Englishman Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor from Belguim with all three drivers behind the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS
It was a slow start for the 2018 champions, starting the day in seventh thanks to a less than ideal qualifying before frustrating communication problems in the first half of the race held them back from progressing forward.
Eventually, their engineers sorted out their radio issues and the R8 was able to recover promptly and begin the charge towards the front of the field, with Frijns in the drivers seat for the last part of the race.
Some sensational and intelligent driving saw Frijns work his way into first place, only to find himself locked in an intense battle with Jamie Whincup in the race’s final stages, as fuel economy became the major factor to determine the winner.
However the race’s climax never happened due to a horror crash occurring with only 20 minutes to go. With the red flag being waved and the race ending pre-maturely, then-leader Frijns along with Audi Sport Team WRT were ultimately handed the win, thus breaking the Belgian team’s duck.
It was a crash that forced race control to end the race.
Bryce Fulwood in the MARC Focus and Ash Walsh’s Audi crashed at Sulman Park forcing the latter to remain sidewards on the track. Seconds later, John Martin and his Mercedes hit the Audi at full speed, causing even more damage than before.
With a huge amount of debris left over from both impacts and only 20 minutes remaining, officials made the call against restarting the race, ending what would have been a tense finish to the iconic race.
WHAT THE WINNERS SAID
“I think Jamie and me was fuel saving a lot,” he said.
“I had a gap to him for about 3 or 4 seconds and I was trying to keep it. I was pushing but still I was trying to save as much fuel as I could, but I don’t think we would have made it if it was full out green, so we were hoping for a safety car.
“Eventually the safety car came as it was unfortunately a big crash but it was alright. But I mean we are really happy. We didn’t expect it in the start, as we had all issues at the start, during the weekend as well.
“I think it means a lot for WRT because it’s their first time out here in Australia,” explained Vanthoor.
“It’s a long flight, a long travel for them. I think it’s good that we gave them a good present. They prepared the race very well. They knew what was allowed and what was not allowed.
“They did a good job, as well Audi, they gave us a good car to fight with and it was a roller coast race.
“I think our engineer has a bit of a headache right now as we were trying to figure out the fuel and what we needed to do and what needed to happen,” added the Brit.
“It was quite a tense moment watching, but Robin did an amazing job at the end.”
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour racetakes place on 31 Janaury - 3 February at Mt Panoram in New South Wales with the big race to kick off at 5:45 local time on Sunday.
THE TOP 10
1. Audi Sport Team WRT - Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor - Audi R8 LMS
2. Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 - Kenny Habul, Tristan Vautier, Jamie Whincup and Raffaele Marciello - Mercedes AMG GT3
3. 540 Boston Athletic Club - Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz and Marc Lieb Porsche 911 GT3 R
4. Ice Break & Virgin Australia - David Calvert-Jones, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell and Alex Davison - Porsche 991 GT3R
5. EuroMechanica - Earl Bamber, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor - Porsche 911 GT3 R
6. Manthey-Racing - Romain Dumas, Fred Makowiecki, Dirk Werner Porsche 911
7. Strakka Racing - Nick Leventis, Lewis Williamson, Cameron Waters and David Fumaneli - Mercedes AMG GT GT3
8. Haemokinisis/Trofeo Estate - Jim Manolios, Ryan Millier, Ivan Capelli and Dean Canto - Lamborghini Hurracan
9. Laser Plumbing and Electrical - Timo Glock, Philipp Eng and Steven Richards - BMW M6 GT3
10. Supabarn - James Koundoris, Theo Koundouris, Ash Walsh, Duvashen Padayachee - Audi R8 LMS
The 2019 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will take place on 31 January - 3 Feburary at Mount Panorama with the main race to start at 5:45am local time.