Anytime before 6am is early by anyone’s measure, but the Bathurst 12 Hour start time of 5:45am doesn’t seem to bother too many people. Particularly unbothered was pole-sitter Chaz Mostert, who according to his team was ready to roll almost three hours before race start.
With first light breaking in the east, the cars set off on the rolling start, lights blazing and ehausts flaming and popping madly in the dark. As a sound and light show, a fleet of GT3s and GT4s storming into Hell Corner at Bathurst is a sight worth rising early for.
The start was largely uneventful until the Safety Car boards slowed the field for a stricken car on Mountain Straight. The rest of the hour was fairly quiet unless you were a Schnitzer BMW fan, with the M6 GT3 pulling an easy twenty seconds out of the second-placed Audi.
Hour two started with Crampton’s KTM X-Bow walloping the wall at Forrest Elbow in a crash that looked like it would never end, never mind for the man himself behind the wheel. Mostert again went to work but was foiled by another crash on Mountain Straight, with Bagnall (Audi R8), Cini (R8) and Haber (MARC II V8) coming to grief in an awkward tumble.
The green flag returned on lap 51 and Mostert once again obliterated the pack with a commanding lead on the first lap. Ten laps later a slightly over-zealous race control put out the safety car for a beached Porsche that worked its way free. Perhaps to make the safety car worthwhile, Xavier West in the second of the SRM BMW M4 GT4s came to grief, his front right wheel rolling away down the hill.
This triggered more stops and again ruined Mostert’s lead. Time Slade stayed out in the #11 Objecive McLaren and took the lead.
Further frustration for BMW came when Mostert’s replacement, Marko Wittman, overlapped with a Marco on the restart, copping a drive-through penalty. Wittman stayed in for the next stop, with new tyres going on.
The SRM GT3 had, in the meantime, stormed through the field, taking advantage of all those safety cars. Having started last after being excluded from qualifying, running as high as third before settling into sixth place just with a brave pass on Frijns (Audi R8 #37) before the 5h00 mark.
The #58 Mclaren of Lowndes struck trouble, the 650S coming into the garage on lap 101 from just ouside the top ten.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.