Motorsport News

THE BIG BATHURST LAP RECORD CHANGE

GOING LAP RECORD HUNTING at Bathurst? Well, you’d better do it in a race from now on.. The Race Torque can reveal that changes made to the rules of competition will change the way potential record-breakers can set a benchmark time at Mount Panorama.

WORDS: Richard Craill IMAGES: Bathurst 12 Hour / Supplied

DO NOT expect Christopher Mies’ outright lap record of the Mount Panorama circuit to be challenged any time soon.

Set last November in the annual Challenge Bathurst sprint event, the German GT ace punched out a stunning 1m59.2910s best driving an un-restricted Audi R8 LMS GT3 run by Audi Sport Customer Racing Australia.

It was a staggering lap, the first ever officially under the magic two-minute barrier at Mount Panorama and under the rules of the day, it stands as an official lap record of the venue too.

However it looks to be the last time that will be the case after the regulatory body of the sport made some off-season changes to the rule book.

The ‘fastest ever lap’ of the world-renowned 6.213km ribbon of tarmac in country New South Wales has grown in ever-increasing significance in recent years as competitors, manufacturers and drivers line up for their own attempt at a Bathurst ‘lap record’.

However, recent changes quietly made to the CAMS National Competition Rules (NCRs) will ensure that, officially at least, future records at that track or any other in the country must be set during a race.

The previous wording of NCR 122 said that ‘A record established during a race or speed event shall be recognised only as a Local record.’

With Challenge Bathurst falling under the ‘Speed Event’ category that makes the Audi achievement last November perfectly valid.

However, the 2019 CAMS Manual of Motorsport (freely available online via the CAMS website) has changed the wording of NCR 122 to the following:

122. RECORDS ESTABLISHED DURING A MEETING

(i) A No time or distance record established during a race or speed event shall be recognised only as a Local record.
(ii) A Lap Record can only be established during a race.

– Cams National Competition Rules

These changes were driven by modifications made to the International Sporting Code, the driving force of all motorsport regulations enforced and issued by the FIA.

So, what does it mean?

Well, It means that from now on the Bathurst lap-record chase will need to come in either the Bathurst 12-Hour, Bathurst 1000 or Bathurst 6 Hour – or any one of the supports racing at those events.

It won’t be able to come during the Challenge Bathurst sprint event each November because while it is competitive, it is not a race.

This closing of a regulatory loophole ends teams taking advantage of ‘sprint’ style events at Mount Panorama to chase records.

The Audi team made no secret of their attack on the record last November, saving sticky Pirelli rubber and pulling the mandated Balance of Performance restrictions from the cars that they would otherwise have to use during the Bathurst 12 Hour.

Both Mies’ and teammate Garth Tander lapped under Shane van Gisbergen’s existing 2m01.5670s flyer set during the 2016 Bathurst 12 Hour, though Mies’ was the first under the two-minute barrier and with the ultimate record.

It’s not the first time that has occurred at Bathurst either: in 2011, Maranello Motorsport and the late Allan Simonsen arrived at the similar ‘Sprint Bathurst’ event that year with a tuned-up Ferrari 458 GT3 and sliced more than 3.5 seconds out of the existing outright record; held at the time by Jamie Whincup.

Simonsen’s 2m04.9560s best was, at the time, uncharted territory at the Mountain and the first time in history anyone had gone quicker than 2 minutes 6 seconds there.

In its own right, Simonsen’s 2011 record created controversy.

When a year later Formula 3 returned proper ‘wings and slicks’ competition to Bathurst for the first time in two decades, expectations were high that the high grip, high-speed cars would ensure the record tumbled.

British driver James Winslow’s 2m05.3502s best in the first race of the weekend was initially claimed as a record, with most suspecting Simonsen’s Bathurst 12-hour lap record (Allan Simonsen was very good at Bathurst lap records, in case you had not already noticed) set earlier that year (2m06.3311s) was the benchmark they were chasing.

After some arguing of the point, clarification came from CAMS officials at the meeting that it was, in fact, Simonsen’s 2011 lap set at the Sprint event that was the correct marker to target.

Fortunately, the following day Chris Gilmour dropped into the 2m04s to remove any doubt.

The major fallout from the regulatory change will be felt by the Challenge Bathurst competitors who can now no longer use the event as a record-setting platform.

Already, Australian GT Championship organisers had launched a ‘Pirelli AGT SuperSprint’ for this year’s Challenge Bathurst event, where series competitors could ultimately have an un-restricted crack at the Bathurst record, with Pirelli agreeing to supply soft tyres for the purpose.

Obviously now, the official lap record component of that exercise won’t happen.

It also means, pending the status of the vaunted fifth Bathurst event, we are unlikely to see the official, outright Mount Panorama lap record benchmark change for some time.

Running with traffic and Balance of Performance restrictions in place, GT3 cars contesting the Bathurst 12 Hour currently lap at best in the mid 2m02-second range, van Gisbergen’s stunning efforts in 2016 set on a softer tyre than the one currently used and in near-perfect conditions for the turbocharged McLaren.

So while it’s not impossible that 12-hour cars could get close to the two-minute barrier, it’s not likely any time soon.

Of course, as it does with the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the chase for the ‘fastest ever’ claim at Mount Panorama is unlikely to really ever stop.

Brabham’s efforts in the BT62 at this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour were impressive (Luke Youlden lapping in the 1m58s) while just this week Honda confirmed a ‘Front-Wheel Drive Record’ thanks to Jenson Button and a Honda Civic Type-R.

What’s more, the chase for category or class records will continue: David Reynolds 2m06.1492s best will be aimed at this October, while McLaughlin’s qualifying record of 2m03.8312s set in the 2017 Shootout remains the fastest ever lap for a Supercar on the Mountain and a juicy benchmark come Shootout time.

And the lure of running an unrestricted GT3 car at Challenge Bathurst will no doubt continue to draw people to contest that event each year in a bid to beat Mies, officially or otherwise.

The Bathurst lap record chase has always been something special. While that will continue to be so, this small but significant regulatory change means it’s going to be much harder – but perhaps more satisfying and relevant to the sport – to go after that ultimate Bathurst benchmark that so many want.

Bathurst lap record history: 1970 to present

TimeYearDriverCarEvent
2:09.70s1970Niel AllenMcLaren M10-B F5000Easter Bathurst (Pre-Chase)
2:09.5705s2002John BoweFord Falcon AUBathurst 1000
2:08.6726s2003Garth TanderHolden Commodore VXBathurst 1000
2:08.6515s2005Mark SkaifeHolden Commodore VZBathurst 1000
2:08.4651s2008Jamie WhincupFord BF FalconBathurst 1000
2:04.9560s2011Allan SimonsenFerrari 458 GT3Sprint Bathurst
2:04.6187s2012Chris GilmourDallara F307 MercedesBathurst Motor Festival
2:03.8245s2014Chris AnthonyDallara F307 MercedesBathurst Motor Festival (Saturday)
2:02.6710s2014Simon HodgeMygale M11 MercedesBathurst Motor Festival (Sunday)
2:01.5670s2016Shane van GisbergenMcLaren 650S GT3Bathurst 12 Hour
1:59.2910s2018Christopher MiesAudi R8 LMSChallenge Bathurst