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Frijns leads Audi to Bathurst 12 Hour victory

Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor
Sunday, February 4, 2018

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Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor
Stuart Leonard, Dries Vanthoor and Robin Frijns

Audi Sport Team WRT has claimed the 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour victory on their first visit to the Mount Panorama Circuit.

One of the world’s most successful GT3 teams, the Belgian-based outfit won a dramatic race that was sensationally declared under red-flag conditions within the final ten minutes following a large accident at the top of Mount Panorama.

The team has won a majority of the world’s top GT3 races and added Bathurst to their tally with factory drivers Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor.

The team started seventh and remained in contention throughout most of the race, however were running low on fuel and unlikely to finish prior to the red flag giving them a ‘get out of jail free’ card and delivering Audi their third 12-hour victory – the most of any marque in the GT era. 

The winning car completed 271 laps and 1,683km of the Mount Panorama circuit and edged out the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes AMG GT3, driven in part by Supercars champion Jamie Whincup. 

“Yeah I think Jamie and I were fuel saving a lot,” 26-year-old Dutchman Frijns said of the tense finish.

“I had a gap to him of about 3 to 4 seconds and I was trying to keep it. I was pushing but still, I was trying to save as much fuel as I could but I don’t think we would have made it if it was full-out green so we were hoping for a safety car. Eventually the safety car came and it was a pretty big crash so hopefully, everyone is alright. But, yeah, we are really happy.

“We didn’t expect it from the start as we had issues during the start and over the weekend as well. For the first four hours, we didn’t have a radio so we were struggling to communicate with the team. But from halfway to the end everything went quite smoothly.”

Young-gun Dries Vanthoor said the victory was significant for the team.

“I think it means a lot to them (Audi Sport Team WRT). This is their first time out here in Australia. It’s a long flight and a long time to travel so I think we gave them a good present. They prepared the race very well, they knew what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed. They did a good job.”

British Audi ace Stuart Leonard explained that the tension at the end of the race – as teams calculated fuel strategies – was felt throughout the paddock.

‘I think our engineer has a bit of a headache right now as we were trying to figure out the fuel and what we needed to do and what needed to happen,” he said.

It was quite a tense moment watching, but Robin did an amazing job at the end.”

The second-placed SunEnergy1Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 was driven by ex-pat Aussie Kenny Habul, Tristan Vautier, Jamie Whincup and Raffaele Marciello, while third was the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche entry of Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz and Marc Lieb.

Frijns leads
Frijns leads
The Porsche also won the BRM Watches ProAm trophy. 

A typically incident-filled day saw the Bathurst 12 Hour end under red flag conditions for the first time following a hefty incident at the top of Mount Panorama within the final half-hour, involving the #69 Supabarn Audi R8 LMS of Ash Walsh, #19 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of John Martin and the #95 MARC Cars Australia entry of Bryce Fullwood.

It was the first time that the race was ended under red-flag conditions, with no time remaining to re-start. 

Despite crashing heavily at the end, the Supabarn Audi won Shannons Class A-Am, completing the most amount of laps in the class at the time of the race being declared.

Grove Racing took out the Porsche Class B victory with drivers Stephen Grove, Brenton Grove and Ben Barker, while Boost Mobile Class C was won by the #30 Boat Works Racing BMW M4 GT4 of Tony Longhurst, Aaron Seton and Matthew Brabham.

Longhurst announced during the race that today’s race would be the last in his lengthy career, that includes two victories in the Bathurst 1000 and one 12-hour victory. 

The Racer Industries Invitational Class winners were the #91 MARC Cars Australia MARC II V8 of Keith Kassulke, Rod Salmon and Will Brown.

The event announced a three-day attendance of 43,610, an increase of three per cent from 2017.

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