The Mountain takes more bites at the Bathurst 12 Hours

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Pre-dawn Sunday morning saw the start of the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12hrs and the opening round of the SRO sanctioned Intercontinental GT Challenge from Mount Panorama just outside of Sydney, Australia.

Limited to just thirty four of the original thirty nine car entry that arrived at the circuit earlier in the week, R-Motorsport had already lost their #62 Pro car entry of Marvin Kirchhofer, Luca Ghiotto and Ollie Caldwell after Kirchhofer suffered a terrifying accident in Qualifying that all but destroyed his Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3.

That left the Swiss based team with just their high profile BP Castrol sponsored #76 car entry of Rick Kelly, Scott Dixon and Jake Dennis whereas fellow AMR runners Garage 59 still had their #188 Pro-Am and #159 Silver Cup entries.

Starting at 05:45 this morning, the opening laps were very controlled compared with previous years with no accidents reported although the #76 R-Motorsport car did mysteriously plunged from its P10 starting position to near last on the opening lap only for the team to later confirm that an electrical issue between the steering wheel and fuel systems had forced the starting Kelly to restart the system before continuing.

For Garage 59, Come Ledogar would start the #188 car from P18 on grid (P3 in class) whilst Andrew Watson would be starting their new Silver Cup #159 entry from P20 on the grid (P2 in class).

All would run systematically for these two cars throughout the first hour of racing and despite losing three places on grid each during those opening laps. Just after the hour mark both Garage 59 cars would pit a lap or so apart, refuel but retain the same tyres and double stint both Ledogar and Watson.

Disaster would strike the #188 car however just fifteen minutes after pitting when an incorrect line through the Spares Box Dipper ran Ledogar's car over the high kerbs, into a slow spin and heavily into the outside concrete wall. With no 'give' in the wall, the only pieces to flex and break was the #188 Aston Martin - ripping off most component parts on the right hand side of the car.

Calling out the Safety Car for the first time it was great to see the Frenchman remove himself unaided and apparently uninjured from the wreck of his car but for him and co drivers Alex West, Chris Goodwin and Maxime Martin, they would play no further part in the race.

Losing only ten minutes to that Safety Car period, it wasn't too long before another incident took place over the Mountain, this time a Lamborghini making heavy contact with the concrete wall - destroying his driver side also putting them into immediate retirement. Then, and just ten minutes after that another Safety Car for another terrifying high speed accident at McPhillamy Park for the #22 Audi of V8 Supercars hero Garth Tander.

Another accident - another destroyed racing car!

Whilst all of this was going on, the remaining #76 R-Motorsport and #159 Garage 59 cars were methodically consolidating their position on track with Watson eventually pitting from the class lead to hard over to fellow Bathurst debutant Oliver Hart and with Dixon now just outside the top ten again.

Hart would follow in the steps so far made by both AMR teams by double stinting both the drivers and tyres as long as cockpit and track temperature allowed.

Trouble would come back to haunt the R-Motorsport team less than halfway into Jake Dennis' opening stint as he unexpectedly returned to the pit lane and into the garage to replace the cars front splitter and brakes for a reason - had he been off track and suffered damage we can only summise.

As the race approaches its halfway stage, both remaining Aston Martins are still running - the #159 Garage 59 with Canadian Roman De Angelis now aboard for his first laps of the Australian circuit, presently holding P18 overall and P3 in Class. The #76 Castrol liveried R-Motorsport car has also returned to the track but is now six laps down to the leaders.

Hopefully, the second half will be better - it will certainly be even more exciting if this expected rainfall actually arrives and delivers!!

Photo credits - IGTC

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