7 Feb 2017

Bathurst 12 hours 2017

I spent the weekend inland at Bathurst for the 12 hour GT race. Hot conditions were forecast and they were not wrong. Saturday was very hot -mid 30sC.( that's 97ºF) Race day on Sunday looked good as it was overcast initially so the temperature hovered around the low 30s until midday but then the sun broke through and the temperature went off the dial. I moved right around the track including walking over the top and down the Dipper towards Forest Elbow. I went  with two friends - we drank a lot of water and tried to stay in the shade. We did spend the last 2 hours in the very empty Nissan hospitality area on the inside of the first corner by a large electric fan watching the race both on the track and on the TV monitors. We managed to survive -just. I have never been so hot. Thank you Nissan.
It was a great weekend but there were a few times I questionned my own sanity.
It was a good thing that the pub in Orange where we stayed had such fabulous cold craft beer. A cold beer or three was never more welcome than on Sunday evening.

There was a very big entry for the race with a large number of international teams and drivers.
For the first time there was a top ten shoot out for grid positions. This was topped by the eventual winner the Ferrari 488 of Vilander, Lownes and Whincupp. Two Porsches made it into the qualifying shootout as did three of the new and very fast, but fragile,BMW M6s. It was good to see an Aston Martin Vantage in the top ten.
The race followed the pattern of recent years and was very tightly fought with multiple changes of lead and unfortunately quite a few safety car deployments. Cars were bouncing off walls all day and the drama lasted right down to the last 20 mins when last year's winner Shane Van Gisbergen in a Mercedes AMG in pursuit of the leader pushed off a Porsche right at the top of the mountain and then as the red mist, or maybe sweat, descended over his eyes he bounced the Mercedes off a wall coming down the mountain and his race was over. One of his  co-drivers, Marc Engel, did a major dummy spit on TV-eleven hours and 45 minutes racing wasted.
In the previous two years Porsches have been also rans in the race but it was very different this year. The new GT3Rs were on the pace and the Competition Motorsports car driven by Australians David Calvert-Jones and wonderboy Matty Campbell with Porsche works pro-drivers Patrick Long and Marc Lieb came second two minutes behind the winning Ferrari in the ICE Break car. A Walkinshaw GT3R came 4th and Porsches won three of the five classes with Caymans taking out the top three places in the GT4 class. The natural order has been restored.

How did the drivers keep cool? Most of the GT3 cars have airconditioning. The drivers wear cool suits/shirts where ice cold water is pumped around a tube woven into the fabric and some cars, such as the Nissan GTRs, have cooled seats. The pit crews were the ones who were really suffering. Many pits had portable cooling units but many of the overseas technicians looked really stressed late in the afternoon.

I  used Leicas for my photos as hauling a camera with a long lens in that heat was just not on. Surprisingly the best results from the weekend came from the Leica Q - a camera with a 28mm wide angle lens. Not a combination one normally associates with motor racing photography but the layout of the Mount Panorama circuit means that there are a couple of points where you can get really close to the cars if you are prepared for a steep climb. Now I leave the real close-up action shots to fitter and younger men and women who can carry that heavy gear and I just and concentrate on the atmospheric shots
I hope that you enjoy my personal take on the Bathurst 12 hours.

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