Nine full-time V8 Supercars drivers have taken an early trip to Bathurst this year, preparing for season start in different machinery at Australia’s most spectacular circuit.
Joined by a number of endurance co-drivers on the race track this weekend, some of V8 Supercars’ biggest names tackle the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which begins tomorrow and concludes on Sunday evening.
Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 winners Garth Tander, Will Davison, Rick Kelly and Nick Percat line up on the grid, with talents Shane van Gisbergen, Tim Slade, David Reynolds, Scott McLaughlin and Dale Wood also competing in the race.
A number of Pirtek Enduro Cup regulars take to the mountain, mixing with international stars including LeMans winner Guy Smith, GT champion Laurens Vanthoor, double winner Christopher Mies, teenage young gun Austin Cindric and German legend Bernd Schneider.
A host of former Formula One stars, including Mika Salo, Markus Winkelhock and Andrea Montermini, will also line-up on the grid.
Two-time Bathurst winner Kelly sampled his Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 at Phillip Island testing last week and is pleased to compete with fellow Nissan drivers Florian Strauss and Katsumasa Chiyo to defend the 2015 12 Hour crown.
“That car is just amazing to drive, especially around Bathurst, where it is unbelievable,” Kelly said.
The Bathurst 12 Hour is a great way for Nissan to kick off its 2016 motorsport season, which includes programs such as Super GT and GT3 in addition to V8 Supercars.
“The Bathurst 12 Hour continues to grow from strength to strength, so I know the competition will be fierce, with lots of strong cars and teams and a great mix of local and international drivers.
“I think we can be right up the front but Bathurst usually puts on crazy racing so the idea will be to play it smart and be in the mix come the last hour of the race.”
V8 Supercars driver Tim Slade, who switches to Brad Jones Racing this year, expressed just how important extra racing miles would be, before his regular season kicks off next month at the Clipsal 500.
“It’s great to get laps in anything at any stage of the year, but especially at the start without all the pressure that comes with V8 Supercar racing, especially at the Clipsal 500 which is one of the biggest and best events of the year,” Slade explained.
“For sure, it’s definitely beneficial for driving for the rest of the year, and especially at the start of it.
“The other thing is that it’s miles around Bathurst, which is invaluable. You can’t get enough miles around there.”
Three-time Bathurst 1000 winner Tander agreed the race helped get back in to the racing mindset.
“Having the opportunity to do the [12 Hour] race is great – any chance you get to drive at Bathurst you grab it and in a GT car it is very different to a V8 Supercar,” Tander said.
“It’s a race that’s cool to do but also helps with the preparation for the V8 Supercars Championship.”