Godzilla storms to thrilling Bathurst victory
Katsumasa Chiyo, Wolfgang Riep and Florian Strauss completed 269 laps and 1,671km today to deliver a famous victory to the Nissan.
NISSAN has won the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, stealing the show thanks to a remarkable finish that saw Japanese driver Katsumasa Chiyo charge from third to first in the last two laps to deliver the brand their first Bathurst win since 1992.
The historic victory came in a day that saw a record-breaking 20 safety car interruptions and tales of drama and disappointment mixed with the usual heroic Bathurst performances that feature in every race at the famous track.
The winning Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Chiyo-san, Wolfgang Riep and Florian Strauss completed 269 laps and 1,671km today to deliver a famous victory to the Nissan brand the week they announced their return to LeMans.
Seven different brands finished in the top seven with Nissan leading home Audi, Aston-Martin, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Lamborghini finishing in that order.
Yet another Bathurst thriller went down to the wire following a late-race Safety Car that set up a 15-minute sprint to the flag.
It is just unbelievable because I couldn’t imagine that end of the race, with a strong Audi and Bentley and we are still in the amateur class.
Late race leader Matt Bell (Bentley Continental GT3) had fended off attack after attack from Audi R8 driver Laurens Vanthoor in the closing sprint and looked set to deliver the British brand a Bathurst victory on their first start at the Mountain.
However they didn’t count on the flying Nissan who picked off lapped car after car following the penultimate restart to close the gap between their third place and the two duelling leaders.
The final Safety Car interruption was called with less than 10-minutes left for a stranded car in the Meguiar’s Murray’s corner sand trap – taking just one lap to recover.
With the three leaders line-astern for the subsequent restart and two-lap dash to the flag, a breathtaking restart saw Chiyo-san pass Vanthoor’s Audi into turn one.
He then disposed of the leading Bentley by using the Nissan GT-R’s stunning straight-line performance to draft past the Bentley and take the lead before turn two.
Chiyo then sprinted away in the closing laps to win by 2.4 seconds after another record-setting day on the Mountain.
The battle for second wasn’t over until the final flag, a charging Stefan Mucke the star of the show in the Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin as he and Vanthoor’s Audi attacked the Bentley on the final lap, both ultimately slipping past in a remarkable three-way final corner tussle.
Three different brands represented on podium
The results saw three different brands represented on the Bathurst podium, the Vanthoor / Marco Mapelli / Markus Winkelhock Audi R8 followed narrowly home by the Craft-Bamboo Aston Martin driven by Mucke, Alex MacDowell and two-time race winner Darryl O’Young.
Bell’s Bentley was shuffled to fourth pace following the frantic finish, after a remarkable performance that saw their car work their way into contention throughout the day.
The cars raced at the back of the top-10 in the early stages before slowly creeping into contention in the second half of the race.
Bell and co-drivers Steven Kane and Guy Smith found themselves leading within the final hour of the race however just came up short in what remained a remarkable result on the brand’s Bathurst 12-hour debut.
A starring performance from Erebus’ Motorsport’s young-guns in the No. 36 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3 saw them finish fifth – though enjoy a substantial share of the race lead throughout the day.
Richard Muscat, Jack LeBrocq and Dean Canto each led the race throughout the bruising day but didn’t quite have the pace to compete in the frantic race to the finish.
The Vicious Rumour Racing Ferrari 458 of Benny Simonsen, Andrea Montermini and Renato Loberto finished an outstanding sixth, the first car not on the lead lap at the end of the race.
After contending early before striking dramas, the front-row starting JBS Racing Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 of Roger Lago, David Russell and Steve Owen came from two laps behind to finish a solid 7th outright – the first finish for the team after four years of trying and plenty of bad luck.
Malaysian team Clearwater Racing (Mok Weng Sun, Toni Vilander and Matt Griffin) finished eighth with the second Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra 9th.
The Aussie-entered Audi R8 LMS Ultra driven by Christoper Mies, Marc Cini and Mark Eddy completed the top-10.
Canberra team Koundouris Racing scored a stunning victory in Century Batteries Class B – for Porsche GT3 Cup Cars.
Driven by Brothers James and Theo Koundouris, Marcus Marshall and Sam Power, the Cup S entry finished 16th outright following a race-long battle with rivals, Grove Racing.
The Grove Porsche – driven by owner Stephen Grove, Ben Barker and Luke Youlden – ended the day second in class despite bringing out the final safety car when they speared off into the sand in the final corner 10 minutes.
Donut King racing triumphed in the Ryges GT4 class, Tony Alford, Peter Leemhuis and Mark O’Connor completing 249 laps in their Lotus Exige GT4 and finishing 24th overall.
The Queensland BMW team headed by Beric Lynton topped GWS Personell Class D, Lynton, John Modystach and Robert Thomson finishing 27th overall in their BMW 1M.
The Australian designed and built MARC Focus driven by Adam Gowans, Ben Gersekowski and Gary Jacobsen won the Recaro Invitational Non Production class, finishing a remarkable 15th outright and in front of all bar a majority of the class A cars running at the finish.
34 of the 50 race starters finished the race, with high profile non-finishers including the Flying B Racing Bentley Continental driven by David Brabham, John Bowe and Peter Edwards.
The car was running inside the top-10 in the closing stages before contact with the No. 97 Aston Martin in the closing stages saw the car pushed into the wall at the Cutting in a hefty impact.
Brabham, behind the wheel at the time, was extricated from the car and taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary checks following the accident.
Event organisers announced a record three-day attendance of 32,297 people for this weekend’s event, up more than 6,600 people on 2014.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will confirm the date for the 2016 Event tomorrow (Monday) morning.
Quoteboard: 2015 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour
Outright and Darrel Lea GT3-AM class winners - #35 NISMO Global Athlete Team Nissan GT-R
Katsumas Chiyo – (took the chequered flag): “It is just unbelievable because I couldn’t imagine that end of the race, with a strong Audi and Bentley and we are still in the amateur class. The car is very good, it is very strong on the straight. I tried to imagine, it was just amazing, we couldn’t know what would happen in this race, but we just tried our best in the moment and then I had a chance in the final restart. It was just awesome. The car was amazing, and so was the team.”
Wolfgang Reip: “Yes it was very stressful (watching the final laps), I couldn’t keep calm. It is incredible, our first win for the last two years we have been racing, so really a lot of emotions. I took the start this morning, at the beginning of the stint I was following the Audi and then I started to save the car because we knew we had to do it to reach (the window). It was pretty long, a two hour forty minute stint and then Chiyo did a three hour stint, so it was quote long, but very exciting. My second stint went pretty well, there were a lot of safety cars but I could reach the pit in time. It was very stressful as we had a strategy and then with the safety cars we did not know what would happen – we didn’t really expect any more to win, but the last ten minutes was incredible. The car was very good here, it is definitely a track that suits us, it was a good race.”
Florian Strauss: “It is just awesome, still unbelievable. I am very lucky that we have won, no one can say what would you have achieved with Alex, we couldn’t have achieved a better result. The team did an amazing job all weekend, Chiyo put the car in first place, the team put all the effort in to get the car in the morning, the car gave me a lot of confidence, got up to speed quite good I guess, not too far away from my team mates, my stint was amazing, a bit long and a lot of safety cars, disappointing half way from the end of the race in third race, but Chiyo put the hammer down at the end and we achieved a good result, and it’s awesome for Nissan.”
Second outright and Darrel Lea GT3 Pro-Am class winners - #15 Phoenix Racing Audi R8
Laurens Vanthoor: “We were obviously on a charge for the last two hours to get back to the front, we had good pace when we were on our own and caught up pretty quickly. Then on the restarts we just lacked top speed and it was very difficult to fight, MacDowall was doing the job he had to do and closing every corner so there was no door to take, and then Nissan came and pushed the R2 button on the PlayStation and there was nothing I could do.
We tried to fight, the last corner was pretty exciting because Katsumasa got past on the straight of the last lap and MacDowall and Stefan were caught on the inside, so I was like okay, that’s nothing to do with me anymore, and I went on the outside and went as hard as I could. They were touching a bit, so I passed on the outside and managed to take second place. Of course I want to congratulate them (Nissan), that was just a joke, they did a great job.”
Marco Mapelli: “Our aim was to win the race, and unluckily we were not able to today but it was a great race and it has been a pleasure to drive with this team and these two guys, we are thankful for the emotion and let’s see what is in the future.”
Markus Winkelhock: “The car was very strong in the opening few hours of the race absolutely, especially in the morning when it was colder, but at the end though it was getting warmer and we were noticing we were lacking straight line speed and there was no way to pass the others, so I knew at the end Laurens had no chance to overtake at the end, and that is a shame. But anyway it was a good race and the team and my team mates did a good job and standing on the podium is a good thing for sure, the target was for the top of the podium but it is still good.”
Third outright - #97 Craft Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage
Stefan Mucke: “It was a very exciting last lap, the engineer told me half way through that it was the last lap and I had to push as hard as I can. The Bentley and the Audi were fighting for position obviously so I had a good exit out of the long straight and I overtook the Audi there, then I had just one corner left to try and do something. We actually went all three side-by-side into the last corner, the Audi had that run on the outside, then it was me second through and the Bentley third out of the corner, so it was a very exciting last lap. It was great to be here, an absolute sprint race for us and we are happy to be in third place. This is just amazing, it is a great track, it is very challenging, but the whole team did a great job, Alex and Darryl did a great job, we all tried our best today and we can be happy with third place.”
Alexander MacDowall: “I did not really think I would be on the podium after that spin, I thought I threw the podium away, I needed to calm down after and it took a few more laps to get into the rhythm, but then we were closing P2 and when Stefan got in and the safety cars happened it really helped and I thought we were in for a shot. But then that spin happened and I hit the wall and I thought this will be some damage and we will have to go back to the pits, but it seemed okay and we got back to a reasonable place. It is just such a challenging track and I think I overstepped the limit a bit, but we learn from our mistakes.”
Darryl O’Young: “The stint was on the limit, with ‘Winky’ behind and also a whole line of other cars chasing, there was really a lot of pressure and we were pushing for qualifying laps every lap. Basically I am really just proud of Craft Bamboo Racing up against all the factory teams, we are a private race team from Hong Kong so to have a fight in this race and have a chance to be on the podium this year is a great thing for our first year, and hopefully we can come back next year and try and fight for the win. It is interesting, your really have to keep fighting your way up the field, with safety cars coming and everything, you always have to be in front of the safety car. We got there, everyone in the team drove well, it is just things came at the wrong time, a bit too late in the race, but Stefan drove a mega last stint and got us back on the podium, so really a great job by everyone on the team.”
2015 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour
Nissan wins Bathurst 12 Hours with final restart assault
Bentley finishes fourth at Bathurst in tense finish