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HomeNewsBathurstThe unexpected Bathurst lap record showdown

The unexpected Bathurst lap record showdown

ONE of the biggest battles of the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour weekend is happening outside of the main race.

Ford and Mercedes have brought spectacular but vastly different machines to Mount Panorama which both have the capability of doing eye-watering lap times.

Mercedes-AMG is wielding an upgraded version of its GT3 contender, featuring carbon brakes instead of steel, a huge rear wing with DRS and reworked front bodywork for more downforce, and the usual Balance of Performance air restrictor deleted from its engine’s intake.

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In contrast, Ford has its E-transit SuperVan 4.2, a wild-looking beast packed with the very latest in electric vehicle technology.

The German marque openly declared this week that it is trying to beat the unofficial closed-car lap record at the circuit, a 1m58.69s set back in 2019 by Luke Youlden aboard a Brabham BT62.

Mercedes appears to have left little on the table for its bid, run by a German crew with support from a handful of Triple Eight staff.

GT ace Jules Gounon has been tabbed to pilot the car between his duties for SunEnergy1 in the main race, while the car itself has carried a minimal amount of fuel and been fed four brand-new soft Pirellis – pre-heated in a makeshift oven tent in the paddock – for every run.

In another contrast to the Mercedes effort, Ford hasn’t publicly declared a bid to beat the lap record.

However, the performance credentials of its electrically-motivated van are just as formidable.

Romain Dumas took it to second outright in last year’s Pikes Peak Hill Climb, just seven seconds of getting the outright win.

Romain Dumas aboard the Ford SuperVan 4.2 during Friday afternoon’s session. Pic: Nathan Wong

Dumas is back behind the wheel at Mount Panorama. It was originally slated to run with three motors and a ‘mere’ 1400 horsepower, but was returned to a four-motor setup ahead of this weekend, complete with a tyre-smoking 2000 horsepower, allied to bodywork that generates two tonnes of downforce and its 1700kg weight.

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Transponder issues on Friday meant neither machines’ laptimes were officially tracked by the circuit’s timing system, although the Mercedes was hand-timed by various people as logging a 1m57s in its afternoon hitout.

On Saturday morning, with the timing system running, Gounon shattered the Brabham mark by some two seconds, logging a 1m56.6054s lap on his second run.

He’d looked even quicker on his first, until he side-swiped the wall at Reid Park…

By way of comparison, the reworked Mercedes-AMG was three seconds faster than its standard GT3-spec sibling’s best time of the weekend up the hill, almost two across the top and a further second on the run back down, where it went through the Conrod Straight speed trap at 288km/h – around 20km/h faster than the GT3 contender.

The Ford camp, meanwhile, have yet to compete a lap at full pace, instead focusing on getting the ‘Van suited to the run across the top of the Mountain.

Ford also has the relative luxury of time on its side.

Mercedes-AMG only has this weekend to get the job done, while SuperVan 4.2 will be back at Mount Panorama next weekend for more runs at the Thrifty Bathurst 500.

The official competition lap record at Mount Panorama is a 1m59.2910s, set in 2018 by a Christopher Mies-piloted Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8 during Challenge Bathurst when it ran in GT3-spec besides being unhindered by an air restrictor.

Although Mies’ lap took place outside a traditional race weekend, it stands as the official circuit lap record as it was set during a SuperSprint session – a loophole since closed by Motorsport Australia, which now requires official lap records to be broken and set during races.

Ford and Mercedes both have one more session of running scheduled for the Bathurst 12 Hour weekend, slated for 2:15pm AEDT and to be shown live during the television coverage on 7 and Fox Sports/Kayo.

The cars shared the track with the Ford and Chevrolet Supercars doing aerodynamic and engine parity verification work ahead of the start of the Repco Supercars Championship next weekend.

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