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Porsche holds sway early in Bathurst 12 Hour

THE #912 Manthey EMA Porsche leads the way at the three-hour mark of the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour.

Laurens Vanthoor and Ayhancan Güven used superior fuel economy and later pitstops to vault their way to the lead in the car they will share with Australian sportscar star Matt Campbell.

The ‘Grello’ Porsche had led the #130 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG of Maro Engel, Felipe Fraga and David Reynolds by a narrow margin after a Safety Car period as quarter-race distance loomed, but the second-placed car has just been handed a penalty for a pitlane infraction.

SPOTTER GUIDE: Photos of every car in the 2024 Bathurst 12 Hour

The penalty dropped last year’s polesitters down to 10th place, elevating the Team WRT BMWs to second and third place.

Polesitter Sheldon van der Linde led throughout the opening stint, his margin over the #888 Mercedes-AMG of Mikael Grenier swinging around the one-second mark as they encountered traffic.

“I underestimated how hard it is to get around this place in the dark, especially when you’re the leader,” van der Linde said afterwards.

Little more than 10 seconds covered the top 10 cars throughout the stint, with the overseas GT stars in the cockpit of all the contenders bar the #88 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG, which had Jamie Whincup at the wheel.

The only significant dramas in the early stages in the darkness hit the Invitational and GT4-class runners.

The #701 Vortex encountered problems before the race even started, Lionel Amrouche crashing at Forrest’s Elbow on his way to the grid.

The French machine started the race from pit lane following rapid repairs to the rear of the car.

The GT4-class #56 Ginetta limped into the pits at the end of the eighth lap and had to be pushed to its garage, with a small fire breaking out at the right-rear of the car.

“A driveshaft let go on the back straight and unfortunately then caught fire,” driver Owen Hizzey said. “Not the best start, but rather it go at the start than at the end.”

The car spent over an hour in the garage while the driveshaft was replaced, with spare parts and bodywork stripped off a spare Ginetta to complete the job.

The opening round of pitstops triggered a big shuffle in the order.

Balance of Performance changes during the weekend meant the Mercedes-AMGs, BMWs, Porsches and Audis can get no more than 32 laps from a tank of fuel, although the two Safety Car laps allowed the Porsches to stretch their opening stints to 33.

With cars struggling to generate tyre temperature on their outlaps from the pits in the cool morning conditions, and not much time covering the leading group, cars that could stay out for a lap longer gained track position via the ‘overcut’.

The #912 Porsche was the biggest beneficiary, jumping from fourth place to the lead by waiting until the end of Lap 33 to head to the lane, while the #130 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG, #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG and #46 BMW all leapfrogged the early race-leading duo of the #32 BMW and #888 Mercedes-AMG.

Some tense moments followed each stop as cars on warm tyres came up behind those on cold rubber; Valentino Rossi fought to hold off BMW teammate Charles Weerts, who’d spent the previous lap fending off the advances of Will Brown in the #888 Mercedes-AMG.

Ayhancan Güven held steady in the leading Porsche, initially fending off David Reynolds in the #130 Mercedes-AMG but the Australian couldn’t match the Turkish racer’s pace, falling some five seconds away to head a train comprised of Jules Gounon, Rossi, and Weerts.

Gounon fell away from Reynolds towards the end of the stint, switching his focus to holding off Rossi’s advances in a BMW that was some 5km/h faster down the straights.

The pressure came off, though, when Rossi ran slightly wide on the exit of Murray’s Corner at the end of Lap 57, allowing teammate Weerts to move to fourth at Hell Corner.

The next round of stops began at the end of Lap 63 when Weerts brought the #32 BMW to the lane, followed by Brown and Markus Winkelhock in the #2 Audi.

Gounon and Rossi followed suit a lap later – the former having a bobble over the kerbs at pit entry and a slow driver change with Kenny Habul – with Güven bringing the race-leading car in at the end of Lap 65 with a 9.6s margin over Reynolds, who followed the Porsche into the lane.

Reynolds also followed the Porsche into the lane from second, but had completed 33 laps – one more than nominally allowed during a fully green-flag stint.

However, while that was cleared by stewards on the basis of demonstrating fuel saving across the stint, they were then investigated for using tools in pitlane to tighten the rear wing supports during the stop.

Güven remained aboard the #912 for a double stint and elected to double-stint the tyres as well, immediately using the hot rubber to put the sword to Felipe Fraga, now aboard the #130 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG on fresh tyres.

The margin blew out from just over 10 seconds after the pitstop to over 20 seconds within a couple of laps as the Brazilian took time to get his fresh tyres up to temperature.

Behind them, the #46 BMW’s extra lap again allowed it to leapfrog the sister #32 machine, now with Raffaele Marciello and Dries Vanthoor aboard respectively, while Brown – also double-stinting in the #888 Mercedes-AMG – moved to fifth with the #75 Mercedes-AMG’s longer stop.

Habul battled to maintain track position against the Pro drivers, slipping from sixth to eighth behind the #13 Porsche of Bastian Buus and #77 Mercedes-AMG with Jayden Ojeda aboard.

The complexion of the race changed as the quarter-distance mark neared with the Safety Car coming out on Lap 73 when Julien Boillot bunkered the #701 Vortex in the gravel trap at McPhillamy Park.

The appearance of the Safety Car prompted the first use of the Full Course Yellow procedure in race conditions, with the race neutralised but the field not packing up behind the Safety Car straight away.

Both BMWs and the #888 Mercedes-AMG took advantage by pitting for fuel yet maintaining track position under the FCY conditions prior to the field being released to catch the Safety Car.

Güven headed Fraga by a few carlengths when the race resumed on Lap 78, only for stewards to hand down a pitlane penalty for the #130 Mercedes-AMG for its pit procedure breach.

Bathurst 12 Hour standings after 3 hours

1912L Vanthoor / Güven / CampbellProPorsche81 laps
246Rossi / Martin / MarcielloProBMW+3.1097s
332Weerts / D Vanthoor / S van der LindeProBMW+3.7868s
4888Feeney / Brown / GrenierProMercedes-AMG+7.6926s
513Eriksson / Evans / BuusProPorsche+8.6864s
675Habul / Gounon / StolzProMercedes-AMG+18.5946s
72Schumacher / Winkelhock / FellerProAudi+24.7606s
822Talbot / Haase / K van der LindeProAudi+24.9951s
977Juncadella / Ojeda / GötzProMercedes-AMG+25.329s
10130Engel / Fraga / ReynoldsProMercedes-AMG+26.8672s
11911Picariello / King / ShahinPro-AmPorsche+1 lap
1288Whincup / Love / IbrahimPro-AmMercedes-AMG+1 lap
1348Wood / Le Brocq / Walden / McMillanPro-AmMercedes-AMG+1 lap
14222Waters / Lowndes / RandleProMercedes-AMG+1 lap
1544Zalloua / Pires / Youlden / ShielsSilverAudi+1 lap
1627Riberas / Gunn / JamesPro-AmMercedes-AMG+1 lap
1793D’Alberto / Wall / Denyer / DeitzPro-AmLamborghini+2 laps
1847J Koundouris / T Koundouris / Russell / WebbSilverMercedes-AMG+2 laps
1991Kassulke / McLeod / Morrall / SladeInvitationalMARC+2 laps
2010Percat / Hill / HolingerInvitationalIRC+2 laps
219Holdsworth / Fiore / CiniPro-AmAudi+3 laps
2220Sbirrazzuoli / Jilesen / HargravesInvitationalIRC+4 laps
23111Currie / Gray / DonaldsonInvitationalMARC+4 laps
24702Stutterd / Tracy / Emery / TwiggInvitationalIRC+5 laps
2525Flack / Mostert / BryanGT4McLaren+8 laps
26230Hayman / McLennan / SchutteGT4McLaren+8 laps
2719Griffith / Christodoulou / BilskiGT4Mercedes-AMG+8 laps
28701Amrouche / Boillot / BonnelInvitationalVortex+18 laps
2956Buccini / Zerefos / White / HizzeyGT4Ginetta+42 laps
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