Insight Richard Craill May 7, 2024 (Comments off) (1595)

The Bathurst Lap Record Chase

NO CIRCUIT in Australia has a lap time so passionately chased and coveted as Mount Panorama.

The lap record at the iconic circuit has long been a target for individuals, brands, corporations and more as the ultimate arbiter of what is quick in Australian Motorsport.

Bathurst is the one circuit where just about anyone can remember off the top of their head what a decent lap time is – mostly because of Greg Murphy’s ‘Lap of the Gods’ heroics.

Go quicker than that and you’re impressive. Get close to two minutes and you’re a hero. Go slower? Come back next time.

It’s a topic that come to light following S5000s stated ambition to ‘break the Bathurst lap record’ at the inaugural Bathurst International event in 2022.

In the hands of James Golding, an S5000 racer did indeed go quicker than Christopher Mies’ current benchmark – but it didn’t stand as a Mountain ‘Lap Record’ per se.

How come?

Well, it’s complicated.

Who actually holds Bathurst’s ‘outright’ lap record has always been a murky topic, mainly because of effort like Murph’s stunner in 2003.

It’s very easy for commentators, the media and everyone else to slap a ‘lap record’ tag on a qualy special: Murphy and Scott McLaughlin are the two main reasons for that, in recent history anyway,

Then there’s the demonstration runs; unofficial and sometimes untimed efforts that may well indeed go quicker than the fastest ever lap times set on the Mountain – but don’t really count for anything other than pride and PR value.

The real lap records, of course, can only be set in a race – the competition between the green lights going out and the chequered flag falling a certain amount of time or laps later.

Or can they?

A former quirk in the Motorsport Australia National Competition Rules – the bible on which all motorsport is managed in this country – left open a loophole that offered up wording that allowed for records to be counted in sprint events, as well as actual competitive races.

Because sprint events were against the clock and because they were considered competitive events (which they are), it was regulated that if that was the case, lap records could be established in such competitions.

This author was one of the first to discover that quirk in 2012, when Formula 3 made their debut at the Mountain at the Easter Long Weekend Bathurst Motor Festival event.

A year earlier, Maranello Motorsport and the late Allan Simonsen arrived at the ‘Sprint Bathurst’ event 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. It was a special lap.

But was it a record? Surely it wasn’t – given it had been set in a sprint event and not in the crucible of racing competition..

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 what was thought to be the outright record tumbled.

At the time, most understood 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 at a 2m06.3311s was the outright benchmark they were chasing.

And as such, British driver James Winslow’s 2m05.3502s best in the first race of the weekend was initially claimed as the new benchmark – right up to point where the officials argued the point that, in fact, it wasn’t.

This didn’t go down well with Team F3, however and after some spirited arguing of the point, clarification came from the secretary of the meeting that it was, in fact, Simonsen’s 2m04.95s lap set at the Sprint event that was the correct marker to target.

All thanks to the quirky quirk in the racing rules that said you could do the time in a sprint and it would stand.

Fortunately, the storm in a teacup lasted a day as Chris Gilmour thankfully went quicker than big Al in Sunday’s race, ending the discussion point.

At least for a few years, anyway. At least until Audi Sport rocked up to 2018’s Challenge Bathurst with a juiced-up, Balance of Performance-free Audi R8, some Pirelli qualifiers, Bathurst hero Garth Tander and gun German ace Christopher Mies to have a crack at not just beating the outright record, but being the first to crack the two-minute barrier, too.

Like Simonsen’s event years earlier, this was a Sprint Event, competitively run, meaning records could be set. The rules said they could do it so they accepted the challenge.

Of course the rest is history, with Garth Tander the first into the sub two-minute barrier earlier in the event before Mies stunned everyone with his 1m59.2s flyer.

Good luck beating that.

A year later, CAMS – now Motorsport Australia – changed the wording of NCR 122 which now emphatically states that a Lap Record can only be established during a race.

So while James Golding’s S5000 lap was correctly timed and took part at a legitimate event, because it does not occur during a competitive race it does not stand as an official lap record.

Impressive? Absolutely. Official? Negative.

2024 update: What can break the Bathurst lap record now?

AS it now seems unlikely that S5000 will ever return to Mount Panorama – if even race again at all – it’s hard to know what will challenge Mies’ 1m59 special in his unrestricted R8 in the near future.

Having said that and despite the now almost 10-year old track surface, GT3 cars have been going very quickly indeed on the Mountain in recent years even while running their Balance of Performance restrictions.

Maro Engel’s stunning 2m00.8819s is proof that they continue to get quicker and quicker and even though that was set in qualifying, it’s clear they are edging closer to breaking the 120-second barrier in race trim.

News that the Bathurst Regional Council has targeted a complete resurfacing of the circuit in the near future could assist that cause, with the circuit traditionally dropping a second or two in lap times every time it gets some sticky, new bitumen.

If that happens, then it could go in the 12 Hour in 2026. Outside of that? Hard to see a category in Australia with the pace to do it, let alone Motorsport Australia letting them race there in the first place..

Of course, we’ve also seen the unofficial lap-record off continue apace at the Bathurst 12 Hour, with Mercedes-AMG and Ford both having a big swing at the record since we initially published this story in 2022.

First there was Jules Gounon’s stunning 1m56.6050s flyer in his souped-up, raw AMG GT3 during the 12 Hour weekend. Then Ford went better again, Romain Dumas hurling the utterly ridiculous Ford Supervan around the Mountain a few tenths quicker to claim the official, unofficial non-F1 car Bathurst lap record.

And the chase continues..

The Bathurst Outright Lap Record History

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

Unofficial Bathurst lap records

1m48.88s2011Jenson ButtonMcLaren MP4/23 – Mercedes BenzVodafone demonstration
1m49.80s2011Craig LowndesMcLaren MP4/23 – Mercedes BenzVodafone demonstration
1m56.32472024Romain DumasFord SuperVanBathurst SuperFest Demonstration Session
1m56.6050s2024Jules GounonMercedes-AMG GT3 UnrestrictedBathurst 12 Hour demonstration session
1m58.6940s2019Luke YouldenBrabham BT62Bathurst 12 Hour demonstration session
1m59.2640s2022James GoldingRogers AF01/V8 S5000Bathurst International demonstration
2:01.2860s2016Shane van GisbergenMcLaren 650S GT3Bathurst 12 Hour Qualifying – quickest ever ‘official’ GT3 lap
2:03.3736s2021Chaz MostertHolden ZB CommodoreBathurst 1000 Shootout – Quickest ever Supercars lap

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