A charging Katsumasa Chiyo could not prevent Shane van Gisbergen, Alvaro Parente and Jonathon Webb from taking victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour for Tekno Autosport.
In a race where McLaren largely had the edge over the rest of the field, with van Gisbergen setting a new lap record – a 2:01.567 – on Lap 23, it always looked like it would take something truly special to beat the polesitting 650S, but defending winner Chiyo gave it his very best shot as Nissan fell short of a remarkable double on the mountain by just 1.2 seconds.
Having made a clean start, van Gisbergen was only briefly headed by Warren Luff’s Objective Racing McLaren after a sluggish first stop, before Luff made a rare error and crashed at the Dipper at the end of the second hour.
Although the car briefly shut off when McLaren factory driver Parente took over, costing the Portuguese around 45 seconds – and the lead – while he performed a system reset, Tekno remained firmly in contention all day, their only further drama a pitlane speeding penalty for van Gisbergen which fortunately didn’t cost them a lap. After pitting under the race’s 13th and final Safety Car to top off with fuel, Van Gisbergen would require less fuel at his final stop, allowing the Kiwi to jump ahead of the Nissan into a lead he would never lose.
The GT-R ran strongly throughout after a disappointing qualifying, but even with Chiyo at maximum attack in the closing stages, the Japanese could only get within nine tenths of van Gisbergen’s best time at sunrise. V8 Supercar racer Rick Kelly had stormed through the pack from 13th to second during his opening double-stint before handing over to Florian Strauss, the German doing his prospects of a greater role within the Nismo setup in 2016 no harm at all by maintaining pace with the two factory Bentleys during a prolonged green-flag spell.
By the end of the race, there would only be one Bentley still in the running however, with the unfortunate David Russell suffering two punctures in as many laps after hitting a slow-moving Porsche. Despite a puncture of their own, Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Matt Bell made up for the disappointment of 2015 to finish third, ahead of the Phoenix Racing Audi of Laurens Vanthoor, Markus Winkelhock and Alex Davison, which spent much of the race stuck just off the lead lap with a chronic lack of straight line speed.
The best of the Erebus Mercedes finished fifth in the hands of Thomas Jaeger, Nico Bastian and David Reynolds, who had the fright of his life when Fabian Hamprecht’s PROsport Porsche Cayman spun in front of him at McPhillamy.
Despite having no rear diffuser, Maro Engel had fought his way past the battling Smith and Webb to get the sister Mercedes back on the lead lap with four hours remaining, but his hard work was undone when impressive 17-year-old Austin Cindric suffered a tyre failure and crashed at Griffins Bend, one of many drivers to suffer a sudden delamination at speed.
Marco Mapelli was visibly shaken after the right-rear tyre on his Jamec Pem Audi exploded at full throttle on the Conrod Straight in the second hour. Although he miraculously didn’t hit anything, the tyre had caused too much damage to continue, scuppering Christopher Mies’ hopes of a record-breaking third win on the mountain.
After a stellar effort by Craig Baird, the Darrell Lea McLaren 650S had been set for honours in the Am class until owner Tony Quinn tangled with Roger Lago’s JBS Racing Lamborghini and beached on the kerb at Turn Two. Their demise promoted the no. 5 GT Motorsport Audi of Greg Taylor, Barton Mawer and Nathan Antunes, which finished sixth overall, to the class victory, with Lago, Luke Youlden and Steve Owen taking second.
Le Mans winner Earl Bamber and rising star Scott McLaughlin anchored the Grove Motorsport Porsche 997 to victory in Class B alongside owner Steven Grove.