Power Rankings: 2023 Bathurst 12 Hour
The LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour is back.
Sure, it ran last year but it was a stand-in race in a complicated time that did the job, sure, but wasn’t what it once was.
Any fears that it wouldn’t return to its best, however, can confidently be put to bed following an incredible 2023 encounter that will be long remembered.
As such, here are the best bits, those that need tuning up and those that just left us scratching our heads (especially if you are a certain bearded commentator) from this year’s race.
Welcome back to our (insert sponsor here) Power Rankings for 2023!
1. The race
THERE were concerns about car count and whether we’d get another Bathurst thriller – but boy, weren’t they unfounded. It ebbed and flowed like all good enduros, and there were periods of not a lot happening – though it always seemed like a bit of a phoney war as behind the scenes the various plot points began to play out and it all built towards that conclusion. To fairly judge the Bathurst 12 Hour you need to take the entire thing into account, and this one delivered no less than any of the 19 previous encounters that have defined the history of this race.
What an epic encounter. Feed it into our veins.
2. The final hour
At the end of the longest green flag run in B12hr history (and we’ll need to fact-check this, perhaps the longest in modern Bathurst enduro history), the top three charged to the line split by just 1.4 seconds. And that after having the, frankly, privilege of watching three of the best GT drivers on the planet trade 2m02 laps after 11 Hours of racing at the absolute ragged edge of intensity.
The two Mercedes-AMGs traded paint and controversy. Matt Campbell slapped the fence at Reid Park. The GruppeM team battled controversy and anger with a technical issue. The final 90 minutes were as good a theatre as Mount Panorama has delivered in a decade and we will argue that point with anyone.
3. The Event
THE 12-Hour went to a new level this year. The crowd was appreciatively larger than ever before – but not just at the circuit. Track to Town was enormous and despite it being on the fourth day back at school, a vast majority of Bathurst’s school kids were there as well as the largest turnout for an autograph session the event has ever seen. The internationals were back, in strength. The Rossi factor was enormous. Matt Hall was great. The Weather was perfect. It all contributed, but this was the best B12 yet, by a margin.
4. Jules Gounon + Kenny & Luca
The outfit played an alternate pit-stop strategy to the rest of the field, heading into the pits quite often, which ultimately gave the crew track position in the lengthy run to the finish.
Jules Gounon joins the elite ranks of those who have claimed a hat-trick of enduro wins on The Mountain: company like Peter Brock, Jim Richards, Larry Perkins, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup is impressive, and it was no fluke – he drove like a certified champion.
Luca Stolz did his job, and even though Kenny Habul isn’t a young pro by any stretch, he held his own against the best in the business.
Furthermore, they played the regulations perfectly. The rule written that states that a Bronze driver in the Pro class had no minimum driver time was there because surely, no Bronze driver would be mad enough to enter the fight against the likes of M. Engel or M. Campbell. And yet, in that rule Kenny saw an opportunity, grabbed it, and won Bathurst again.
Two in a row for the SunEnergy1 crew, a very commendable effort.
5. The Rossi factor
It got the Bathurst 12 Hour on the back page of the Daily Telegraph.
That’s really all you need to know.
6. V8 F1 cars at Bathurst
WHATEVER it cost to make this happen, it was worth it. It created vision and memories that those there will remember for as long as they remain racing fans. We can tell you first hand, standing on the roof of the pits and hearing the car accelerate out of Reid Park – 1.6km away in a straight line – was especially memorable. Wow.
7. Maro Engel
Ever since he drove an unloved Mercedes-AMG for Erebus in V8 competition back in 2013, Maro Engel has been on the radar of the Australian motor sporting public.
His subsequent exploits around The Mountain in the 12 Hour since are probably deserving of stronger results – on the weekend. he once again demonstrated why he remains a Mercedes factory gun for hire.
A lap time of 2:01.053sec in practice was then shattered with a ballistic 2:00.882sec in qualifying, the first car in 12 Hour trim to break the magical 2:01sec bracket – a remarkable achievement.
Engel probably should have won the race too – supreme car pace in the run home was tripped up by the roadblock in the shape of Gounon, which probably moved over slightly under braking at The Chase as the German was having a dive.
Clearly, the Gruppe M Racing crew weren’t happy with the outcome – but DSO Craig Baird admitted post-race, that under the Supercars penalty matrix, it would have been a lesser penalty, but under 12 Hour rules, a PLP was the only option for the at-fault party.
To recover to be 1.4sec off the win at the finish shows his class.
Please return next year.
8. Matt Campbell
The Pro-grade Porsche squad this year gave the world an education in fuel saving, while Matt Campbell once again showed why the Stuttgart squad have him enlisted as a prototype pilot in the new Penske-run program.
He absolutely ragged it, and a couple of moments, like when he slapped the Reid Park fence showed how committed he was.
If it were the Bathurst 12hr5min, this entry might appear slightly higher in this list.
9. Broc Feeney
After breaking through in Supercars at Adelaide last year, the rise and rise of Broc Feeney continued in the 12 Hour.
In a team featuring Shane van Gisbergen, who has won everything, and Max Goetz, an AMG factory ace, Feeney was the team leader, and given the wheel for the all-important qualifying, and plonked it on the front row, in an effort that would have been pole without Engel’s brilliance.
Things might have turned out differently at the end of the day if the Triple Eight team didn’t earn themselves a late race penalty (see: nots).
10. TV Things
Bloody hell, that was good viewing. Great pictures and directing, even though it is on a budget compared to the Bathurst 1000 coverage, it was a world-class product projected to a global audience.
Garth Tander’s insight was brilliant, Chad Neylon’s breakdown of the key strategies was spot on for mug punters at home trying to follow proceedings, John Hindaugh and Shea Adam brought international credibility to our international race, while the voice of the Bathurst 12 Hour, Richard Craill, earned himself a number-one what nomination…
- The 327km/h Skyline in the combined sedans. HOT.
- Harris Park coming alive with a host of displays and activations.
- The Bathurst Red Tops FC canteen at McPhillamy Park: continues to be the best food at the circuit.
- The vibe. Just the vibe.
Craillsy Fan Club
As far as complex stitch-ups go, this one involving our Editor Craill absolutely went off…
Craill, also needs a new manager to negotiate a better deal on behalf of the booth commentators…
Time to turn on Channel 7 and watch my favourite program…
Show me the corrective laser surgery…
Because: Sports Sedans
Because there’s nothing in the rules that say you can’t, we present to you a VP Commodore with E49 Charger engine transplant…
You’re on fire!
Maro Engel and David Reynolds sharing the commentary box, and it was Maro that swore…
More surprising an outcome than the end of the race!
1. 999’s modem
What could have been.
A control part issued by the organisers flogged out on the leading AMG, although officials were gracious enough to let the team fix the issue on their next pit stop, and allowed the work to be carried out while the refuelling was ongoing.
Still, it clearly cost them time, and Maro Engel emerged on track behind Jules Gounon, and the rest they say, is history…
2. The invitational class in practice
The Invitational class had an incredibly tough run to race day.
Firstly, Keith Kassulke somehow emerged from the massive wreck of his MARC II, which lost brakes at the end of Conrod.
The physics of this crash are staggering, and it’s a testament to the modern safety standards of race cars that Keith is still with us.
Keith is a popular figure in the paddock, but holy cow, he has been snake bitten by motorsport – we hope to see him back soon.
Then Shaun Woodman binned the beautiful SIN R1 at McPhillamy Park, too badly damaged to continue in the weekend.
A shame, because in the Victorian state scene, this car has been utterly dominant.
Then Grant Donaldson crashed his MARC Mazda at Hell Corner – fortunately, the car was repaired for the race, and won the class as the very last man standing.
3. TV coverage of the F1 run
One of the weekend’s highlights didn’t quite translate to TV – the Foxsports feed momentarily cut out (see: memes), and Channel 7 cut to an ad mid-run, which raised the ire of punters everywhere.
4. Triple Eight’s PLP
With around 3hr15min to go in the race, the Triple Eight crew were pinged for using unapproved tools in a pit stop to adjust the rear wing.
With time of the essence, the car should have been wheeled into the bunker for the work to be carried out, instead, they attracted a drive-through penalty, from which they never recovered.
SVG was anonymous all weekend long, ditto the Boost-sponsored sister car of Jamie Whinup/Richie Stanaway/Prince Jeffri Abrahim, who was overshadowed in the Pro-AM ranks by the Chaz Mostert/Fraser Ross/Liam Talbot entry, which carried an extra AM driver.
5. The qualifying format
A needlessly complicated qualifying system was used, with combined times forming the entries in the top-ten shootout, essentially in an effort to engage the Am drivers in the leading Pro-Am entries.
However, with eight all-Pro entries fronting for qualifying, the format was more or less to determine the two other starters.
But at the end of the two sessions, nobody knew who had made it, making it all just a bit bewildering.
While the final grid of the 12 Hour isn’t that important in the greater scheme of things, the final five in the shootout was great entertainment – maybe next year, just let the ten fastest cars duke it out.
6. Christopher Haase
The all-Pro Audi entry was fenced on the 14th lap.
Needlessly early, and a shame for the race, as we never truly got to see if the overnight BOP gift to Audi would have brought them into play.
7. Aaron Cameron
A rookie error by a faster Pro driver on a slower Am car, Aaron Cameron drastically shortened up his AMG. A massive shame, as to that point the young TCR and S5000 star had been incredibly impressive in the Valmont Racing Merc.
8. Stephen Grove
Tough end of the road again for the Grove Porsche, in remarkably similar circumstances to the 2022 race.
9. Adrian Dietz
The stunning Lambo had a technical birthday for 2023, and was looking quick.
Unfortunately, car owner Adrian Deitz found the fence in the Cutting, and shortly afterwards suffered a big off at the Chase, which saw the car pick up some fresh sponsorship…
10. Scott Taylor
An ugly end of the day for the entry once again pushing the barrow for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
11. The 2024 LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour
How on earth can the ’24 edition follow on from this? Good luck with that…
- Jayden Ojeda missing out on a drive
- Kenny Habul’s nudie run
In hindsight, our schools sucked
Well, there are a lot of these cars going around the world all the time, and very seldom does anything like this happen.
Long after the souvenir stands sold out…
Foodista tour de Bathurst