With six hours remaining in the 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour, it’s a Jamec Pem Audi 1-2 after a high-rate of attrition since the opening hour. The #74 of Chris Haase leads Garth Tander in the sister #22 R8 LMS GT3, Haase taking the lead up the inside at Griffin’s Bend just before the end of the sixth hour.
So far the race hasn’t yet settled down into a true rhythm, with countless incidents causing lengthy safety car periods. As it stands, the race is on track to run to the lowest ever distance covered, a far cry from the Rolex 24 Hours last weekend which saw its distance records smashed.
Behind the Jamec Pem Audi’s there’s another nine cars on the lead lap and in with a chance. With so many safety cars, the strategy between the front runners is varying massively, the leading group changing at each stoppage.
Completing the top three is the #100 BMW Team SRM M6 GT3, Steven Richards, Timo Glock and Phillip Eng putting in monster stints to take the car from dead last at the start, to a top three place, battling for the overall lead.
Fourth and fifth are the two factory-supported Porsches, the #991 Craft Bamboo entry leading the #911 Manthey Racing example. Neither car has led to this point, but both have been in the mix, Laurens Vanthoor in particular, putting on a show earlier in the race, drafting past many drivers to keep the Craft Bamboo car within shouting distance.
The #43 Schnitzer BMW – which dominated the opening hour – is down to sixth, behind the Pro-Am leading #12 Competition Motorsports Porsche. Marco Wittman, Chaz Mostert and Augusto Farfus are easily the fastest in the field on one-lap pace, but a penalty for a safety car violation and pit strategy not going their way has dropped them down the order.
The #17 Bentley also lost valuable time with a drive-through, Steven Kane pulling away from the field while leading the race while yellow flags were still waving at a restart. It’s the only M-Sport machine now in contention, and is down to ninth.
Plenty of other front-running GT3 cars have hit trouble.
Mechanical woes stuck M-Sport’s #18 Bentley, which suffered a gearbox issue early, and later had a puncture at The Chase. The #58 YNA Autosport McLaren meanwhile, is having cooling issues and being worked on in the garage, the sister #47 650S GT3 losing two laps with a radio issue also.
Many other GT3 cars chances of winning ended after big incidents out on track.
The Hallmarc and International Motorsport Audis – both of which underwent extensive repairs prior to the race – went hard into the inside wall on the exit of McPhillamy Park, Andrew Bagnall in the latter machine taken to hospital for checks as a result.
The #3 Audi Sport Am entry also hit a wall hard, at Turn 1, Ash Samedi stranded on the track with a wheel missing three hours into the race.
And finally, the #55 Strakka Mercedes was punted into the tyres at Griffin’s Bend by the SunEnergy1 Mercedes early in Hour 2, the team having to check it in the pits, losing a three laps.
In the Invitational Class, the #91 MARC II V8 has dominated proceedings, only challenged by the #66 Daytona Sportscars Viper briefly, and the #95 Eastgate Engineering MARC Focus.
Class B has been hit by attrition, the Grove Motorsport Porsche leading despite a spin into the gravel and a drive-through penalty. The team’s contender, the Carerra Cup Asia 911, hit trouble multiple times after leading, the car having a puncture, and later going into the tyres at the Bentley Elbow backwards.
GT4 has also seen many contenders drop out in the first half of the enduro. The BMW Team SRM BMW M4 hit the wall hard and lost a wheel while running in the top three, the MARC GT M4 later suffering a similar fate.
That’s left the #30 Boat Works Racing BMW in the lead, ahead of the #49 M-Motorsport KTM X-Box in second and the #77 Ginetta Cars Australia G55 GT4 which has quietly risen up the order with its sister #88 car that sits fourth.