While the teams of the Intercontinental GT Challenge are heading to the Laguna Seca raceway for the 2018 season finale, preparations for the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge season opener at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour are in full swing. Here's a round-up of the latest news on the Australian endurance classic.
Objective Racing confirms Bathurst return
Objective Racing has locked in their return to the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in 2019. The perennial outright and Pro-Am class contenders will return with their McLaren 650S GT3 next February, having posted consistently strong performances since their debut in 2016 without yet scoring much in the way of return.
Car owner Tony Walls confirmed that the team would return for a fourth campaign in a bid to score an elusive strong finish in Australia’s International Enduro: “I went there this year with absolutely no exceptions and we were going pretty strong into the end there and in with a shot – but that’s the way it goes”, he said of their late-race non finish this year. “The 12-hour has been ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’ for us but everyone has those stories at Bathurst. The first year we went there we had a lot on our side that we know would have played out well. In year two we had an early issue with the alternator and we were strong again this year. Everyone’s keen and itching for it so we’ll go around again.”
Minor changes to the driver seeding regulations for the Pro-Am class ensures the team’s driver line-up remains fluid at this point of preparations. Pro/Am competitors will allow for two ‘seeded’ (professional) drivers and either one or two additional bronze-ranked (amateur) drivers.
New car for returning GT4 contenders
The RHC Jorgensen / Strom by MARC Cars squad will return to Bathurst next February in an effort to elevate themselves onto the podium of the hotly-contested GT4 class. Supported by Queensland-based MARC Cars Australia, drivers Darren Jorgensen, Brett Strom, Cameron Lawrence and Kuno Wittmer finished 4th in class this year driving a BMW M4 GT4, making the flag despite a typically challenging Bathurst day.
The team will enter the 31 January – 3 February 2019 event with a brand-new car and a longer track record of local success behind them. Jorgensen and Strom finished an outstanding second outright in the Bathurst 6 Hour Production Car race held at Easter this year, and then won the GT4 class at the Australian GT Endurance Championship event at Phillip Island two months later.
“We are returning in a brand-new BMW M4GT4 which will be shipped to MARC Cars in a few weeks”, Jorgensen said. “Two drivers will definitely be back – Brett Strom and myself. We’re still working on the remainder of the driving line-up and we’re looking at whether we go three or four drivers – I love to drive the Mountain way too much and don’t like to give up my driver time!”
The rapidly growing GT4 class is expected to expand even further in 2019 following a competitive battle in the race this year.
Bathurst 12 Hour on Dixon’s radar
Five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon says the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour is on his wish-list of future races. The 38-year-old New Zealander has enjoyed a record-setting IndyCar career that shows no sign of slowing down, recently sealing his fifth title in style at Sonoma Raceway in California.
Dixon, however, is far from an open-wheel specialist: he has twice won the Daytona 24 hours outright, with another class victory in one of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GTs this year, and has three LeMans 24 Hour starts to his credit.
Talking with the US-based RACER Magazine, Dixon identified Australia’s International Enduro among several opportunities he wishes to chase before his career ends. “Bathurst is one”, Dixon told RACER. “I’d probably prefer to do the Bathurst 12 Hour in the GT spec. I’d would be very hard to jump into the Supercar forum and compete well in that. I’d like to do that in stages.”
With a majority of his focus on IndyCar Racing, Dixon has hardly raced in Australia or New Zealand since leaving for the United States in 1999. He has never raced in any of Bathurst’s ‘majors’, with his only significant local experience since winning the Gold Star coming in 2010, when he joined Kelly Racing as an International co-driver for the Gold Coast Supercars event that year.
Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour opener of five-round season
The 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge will consist out of five rounds, with the new Kyalami 9 Hours in South Africa as the final round of the upcoming season. The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour holds its position as the season opener, with next year’s event taking place on February 2-3.
2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge Calendar
February 2-3: Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour
March 30-31: Laguna Seca California 8 Hours
July 27-28: Total 24 Hours of Spa
August 24-25: Suzuka 10 Hours
November 2-3: Kyalami 9 Hours