BMW’s return to Mount Panorama proved to be a tough one, a resilient showing from Steve Richards, Marco Wittmann, and Mark Winterbottom resulting in a 14th place finish.
The #60 BMW Team SRM M6 GT3 finished the gruelling 12-hour race as the best-placed BMW, Richards, Wittmann, and Winterbottom coming home 14th despite an early battle with power steering problems.
It was a story of what might have been for the #60 car, Richards having raced inside the Top 3 for much of the first stint. However the power steering issue, which reared its head just after Wittmann took over and continued until well into Winterbottom’s first stint, dropped the car three laps off the leaders.
Once the problem was rectified the #60 BMW M6 GT3 was consistently able to match the pace of the leaders, the trio ultimately fighting their way back to 14th despite another long stop later in the race that cost the car another four laps.
The #7 BMW Team SRM entry was one of the form cars of the race’s first half, Timo Glock, Mark Skaife, Tony Longhurst, and Russell Ingall combining to keep the Castrol and Vodafone-backed M6 GT3 in striking distance of the lead lap and well and truly in contention for a podium.
However there was heartbreak just after the six-hour mark, Ingall crashing out of the race at The Dipper and ending any hopes of a Top 3 finish for the BMW Team SRM squad.
The MARC GT M6 GT3 was a case of promise unfulfilled. With Supercars star Chaz Mostert behind the wheel the MARC entry led the majority of the race’s first stint – by as much as 20 seconds at one point – before Mostert handed over to Max Twigg. But contact with the wall led to a lengthy stint in the pits, putting the car more than 20 laps off the lead lap, before a gearbox issue ended their run.
#60 BMW Team SRM
Steve Richards – “We had a few problems today that were a little odd considering that all the things we’ve had in the car have been running perfectly all weekend.
“I’m pretty sure we had the pace that could have stood us on the podium, and that’s encouraging particularly for our first time here. Our drivers did a great job, our team did a great job. I’m absolutely rapt with the way that everyone in the team performed over the course of the weekend. Just to qualify in the Top 3 was unbelievable and we’re, for the most part, pretty pleased.
“We will try and make this a regular appointment on the calendar, with some better results.”
Marco Wittmann – “This was a tough race – and a great experience here in Australia. This event is just great fun.
“My first stint was quite okay, the pace was good. But then we suffered a technical problem, which made us lose some ground over the course of the race. We didn’t give up and kept pushing. We managed to come 14th in the end, although we obviously had hoped for more from P3 on the grid. The qualifying performance was really good. We proved that we can be fast at this track. Bathurst was worth the trip.”
Mark Winterbottom – “It’s a different race, with the 4am alarm going off. It’s a whole new experience.
“We see how much can go wrong in seven hours when we’re here for the Bathurst 1000. Mount Panorama is brutal and even more so over 12 hours.
“Tough day for us, but it was good to finish. The team put in a good effort to keep the car running all day. The good part is that on bad days you have to survive, get the car back, and keep it straight. So it was good to finish, that’s an achievement.
#7 BMW Team SRM
Mark Skaife – “It was an unfortunate way to finish the 12 Hour. I really feel sorry for Russell, it was just a very slight mistake which is an easy one to make in that part of the track, the car sliding down through The Esses and bumping the fence on the inside. It could happen to any of us, in fact I’ve done it before myself so it is just one of those things that happen when you are pressing on.
“It has been unbelievable. I feel really sorry for Tony and for everyone involved because it’s been a hell of a ride. The guys come up with a plan mid-year and we really enjoyed it. To put it together, we’ve got great corporate partners in Castrol and Vodafone, BMW has been wonderful with us and we were genuinely in contention. We genuinely could have won this race.”
Tony Longhurst – “Well, we did our best. The Mountain, it just bites you, it is a mongrel place.
“I think we did a remarkable job getting the sponsorship together, getting Russell and Mark together along with Timo. All of us have had a really great time together. It’s been a good adventure and it’s a shame that it ended on a low instead of a high. But no one can say we didn’t have a go.”
Russell Ingall – “I just came up behind another car – we actually had a reasonable pace going – and basically I just tagged the wall on the inside just before The Dipper. I was right up behind the other car and lost track of how much real estate I had on the inside. I was trying to line him up for The Elbow, but that is life – just a simple mistake. Hitting the inside wall must have broken the steering, which fired it into the outside wall. That was it, lights out.”
“It is a real shame to end like this. Skaifey did a fantastic job, Tony has been great throughout the whole process in putting this whole deal together and Timo has been tremendous. The corporate partners, Castrol, Vodafone, The Boat Works and BMW have been terrific. It is a real disappointment to finish like this – but it is just a typical Bathurst deal. When this place kicks you in the guts, it kicks you pretty good.
“I don’t think I’ve had too many walks back from this place, I think this is one of my first and I can tell you, it doesn’t feel very good.”
Timo Glock – “These things can happen. That track just doesn’t give you much room for little mistakes. You know, 12 hours is a long race and until that moment, we were running pretty much trouble free. It was great to be here with the guys, we showed really good speed and we were just going with the pack and trying to survive. It was running quite well.
“When I heard the first time the line-up I was just really proud to be part of it. These guys have so much passion for their sport and throughout the whole weekend they were so motivated, so into detail and trying to improve and looking at where they can improve and save time in pitstops. They were on it all the time and that’s really cool to see. They didn’t just show up to take part, they just wanted to be competitive and to be honest it was just an honour to drive with them over the weekend.
“I’m going to try to convince them to come back next year, if we had the chance it would be great!”