After the first day of practice ahead of Sunday’s Bathurst 12 Hour, the two marques running quickest have been Audi and BMW. Steven Richards, team owner and driver at BMW Team SRM feels that this year could well be the year for the Bavarian brand at the event, explaining to DSC that the M6 GT3 is perfectly suited to the fast-flowing, tight, twisty Mount Panorama circuit.
SRM’s BMW M6 GT3, which is running in Class A Pro with Timo Glock, Phillip Eng and Richards himself, was consistently in the top five cars on pace during Friday, a good sign ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying sessions.
“We’re confident of a good result here this year,” Richards told DSC. “The field is incredible, this may be the most competitive ever, but I’m still positive we’ll be in the mix. If there’s any circuit that suits the M6 GT3, this is the place it suits the most.
“Generally, we run at slower speed circuits in Australia which isn’t the car’s strength, but at Bathurst and Phillip Island the M6 runs so well, so we expect to be battling it at the front of the field.”
Richards, a four-time winner of the Bathurst 1000 (pictured below), says that BMW’s approach to its relationship with the team is a key part to them running the M6 GT3, as well as the M4 GT4 in the race.
“This is, even for us here in Australia, the biggest event on our calendar, but it’s the first event of the year, which makes it difficult to get things done.
“But we are a pro race team, we just run on a very different model where all our staff are contractors, to keep our overheads down. That means we have just four people a month before the race working full time. Then at the race we have 35 people. It’s challenging but very rewarding.
At Bathurst and Phillip Island the M6 runs so well, so we expect to be battling it at the front of the field
“BMW are great to work with, as they’re very dedicated to helping us, even though we’re so far away,” he said. “We’re supported by BMW Australia, but when when we need to contact the German arm of the brand, whatever we ask, the guys in Munich answer within a few hours. It’s that level of service that really helps us perform, and they understand why it’s important, because we provide a marketing tool for their road cars.
In addition to the team’s GT3 effort, it’s also racing with the brand new M4 GT4. This year is set to be a big year for GT4 in Australia, with the national GT championship running with a GT4 class for the first time. Richards feels that GT4 will take off because of this, explaining to DSC that there’s a real market for more entry-level GT cars.
“The M4 provides us as a team with a real opportunity to run a low cost per kilometre option for amateur racers coming out of national motor racing. They can run in a pro category at a good cost. This is a package where you can do a three, six, 12-hour race for a relatively low cost. There’s no cheap motorsport, but GT4 is the best category in motor racing value wise. That’s where the market place is moving in Australia.
“The biggest thing is that when a driver sits in the M4, it’s a race car, it’s got a cockpit very similar to the GT3, and it has suspension and brake performance like one too. It’s more GT car than road car, even though it shares the engine and transmission. That’s very exciting.
“Looking at motor racing in our country, GT4 fills the gap between amateurs and pros, and it’s a formula that you can run at big tracks. You can’t get access to the big circuits as an amateur racer, this platform gets people to those tracks, with longer races, more milage, within a professional environment.”
BMW M6 and Steven Richards photos courtesy of Team SRM