Ahead of this weekend’s Bathurst 12 Hour race, Vicious Rumour Racing’s Benny Simonsen checks in with a Racing.GT driver blog.
For me, Bathurst is miles ahead of any other circuit. You can really feel the history and the track itself is awesome; I’d say it’s a lot more challenging than somewhere like Spa, which a lot of the drivers rate very highly. The whole place is pretty special and when you get there, it’s quite a unique atmosphere – it’s one of those tracks on everybody’s bucket list.
For me as a personal thing, growing up and watching my brother race at Bathurst, it was something I naturally wanted to do as well. Bathurst was like a second home for Allan; he had a lot of success down here and a lot of people were friends with him, so it feels really familiar when you come here, a bit more of a home circuit than some European circuits in fact.
From last year we know Bathurst is a race with lots of Safety Cars, so it’s a case of seeing if you can keep on the lead lap and put your fast driver in at the end. Anything can happen really, but we’ve got to be a little bit realistic about the overall win as we’ve got the team owner Tony Defelice who is having his first experience racing there. But from the test days I’ve done with Tony, he’s a really confident driver and the rest of us – Andrea Montermini, Renato Loberto and me – all have experience of the track, so I think we have quite a strong team. We’re definitely gunning for an Am class win and then see where that gets us overall.
The Ferrari is a really good car on most circuits; I haven’t driven any other car around Bathurst so I can’t really compare, but they always do a top quality product and whenever I’ve driven it it’s always been very quick. Last year apart from qualifying when we had a brake failure and had to start last, everything went well from there; we were able to stay out of trouble, had good speed and suddenly we were in 6th overall and second in class with a couple of hours to go. Unfortunately the Nissan was quite strong, so we couldn’t do much about that!
Probably Andrea and I will do the hard work. I think last year we did the same lap to a thousandth, so it’s up to the team who will do what. I started the race last year, we’ll obviously have to see what happens in qualifying, but I think it will probably be something similar – I’ve got the fresher eyes! It doesn’t bother me to start in the dark, I started last year and did quite a lot of night driving at the Spa 24 as well, but it is a bit more difficult because when you get to the top of the mountain at Bathurst it’s not just dark, it’s properly dark!
It’s roughly like a street circuit up the top there with no room for error, but I found that one of the worst things about doing the start is when you go down the hill in the morning, you’re driving straight into the sunrise – it’s surprising how little vision you have. At least the sun comes up here in about ten to fifteen minutes, which is only around four or five laps. I remember a couple of years ago when Allan did it, he couldn’t see anything in the dark – I think they had quite bad lights on the car, he had to sit in second for about forty minutes before the light came up and then as soon as he could see, he went into the lead and disappeared off!