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Pirelli Smashes Bathurst Lap Record!
Posted by: newsla on Feb 14, 2014 - 06:17 AM
Sports Cars
Pirelli Smashes Bathurst Lap Record!

After 12 grueling hours around one of the toughest circuits in the world in conditions that ran as high as 43 degrees ambient and 61 degree track temperatures, Pirelli has claimed a fourth place finish at Bathurst [just two seconds from victory], in the process smashing the established race lap record [2:06.3311] a number of times during the event.


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With temperatures predicted to run into the high 30s on all three days of competition, and a new untested track surface to contend with, no-one was 100% certain as to how tyres would cope under such testing conditions. As a result, Pirelli and Australian motorsport distributors Trofeo Motorsport came prepared, with factory Pirelli technical staff joining the 15 Trofeo technicians at the event.

The 2013 Australian GT Championship had given a number of local teams a chance to run on the Pirelli DH [hard] and DM [medium] compounds through the six round season, many of them electing to continue to campaign the Pirelli for the non-championship GT season opener at Bathurst, whilst others fell to external pressures to change.

By the close of opening practice the Pirelli engineers confirmed that the circuit would in fact provide a new lap record, however just how far under the existing 2:06 mark the new benchmark would be was the big question.

Whilst some of the leading teams went after the inaugural ‘Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy’ in qualifying, the leading Pirelli runners elected to focus on their race packages and turned limited laps in the three sessions to reduce tyre wear for the 12-hour challenge ahead.

Despite this the leading Pirelli runner - the Highlands Motorsport Park McLaren MP4-12C of Shane Van Gisbergen - qualified just 15 one hundredths off the pole - and they were running the hard compound on the British built car, two compounds harder than the tyres used by the pole-sitting team. That, and the durability of the Pirelli had forced a lot of discussion in the garages, the MARC-Focus GTC team one who made the wholesale decision to put all three of their cars onto Pirelli just prior to the opening qualifier..

As race day began the big question was about whether anyone would match the speed and durability of the Pirelli runners. Early on the ambient and track temperatures were low, but as mid-afternoon approached, the mercury started to rise, and so too did tyre wear and failures [there were no recorded Pirelli tyre failures during the race]. Fortunately the Pirelli teams were able to effect up to three stints (three hours) out of a set of tyres, and in some cases - the Mark Griffith Class C Ginetta - they were able to run six hours on a set of Pirelli mediums..!

Unfortunately though the high rate of attrition on circuit claimed a number of Pirelli teams including the Ginetta [which was 12 laps up in Class C when a rock threw a drive belt off mid-race ending their run] and the M-Motorsport Lamborghini which had been leading at the two-hour mark, and at the time of its retirement was the lap record holder [2:04.5134]. Sadly for Ross Lilley, a ‘gentlemanly’ move to allow the leaders past at the top of the mountain forced him wide onto oil from an earlier incident, and he spun hard into the concrete barriers.

A similar outcome had claimed one of the other Pirelli pre-event favourites during qualifying - Jason Bright in the 2012 race winning Audi of Rod Salmon striking the wall hard at McPhillamy Park during the opening qualifying session, the impact forcing the car into retirement ahead of the big race.

As the laps wound down the Quinn McLaren stayed within reach of the race leaders and with an hour to go they were right in the box seat with V8 Supercar sensation Shane Van Gisbergen strapped in for the final run to the flag. It would be an epic battle over the final laps, with Craig Lowndes strapped into the leading Ferrari, fellow V8 Supercar driver Will Davison in the SLS AMG and Maximilian Buhk in the HTP SLS all in the mix.

Van Gisbergen was charging and he worked his way forward to be catching the leaders before a late race ‘splash-and-go’ fuel stop dropped him back to fourth. He caught the third placed car of Davison and looked for a way past, but the former Bathurst 1000 winner knew how to keep SVG at bay. Even a late race Safety Car which bunched the top four drivers up at the front of the field made little impact on the final result, Van Gisbergen crossing the line just three second behind the race leader for fourth after 12 hours of intense competition.

Whilst the crowd went mad at another Craig Lowndes victory, back in the garages the conversation turned very quickly to tyres, Van Gisbergen’s 2:03.8560 lap on the hard compound Pirelli doing nothing to quell the discussion.

Even Audi factory favourite Christopher Mies who was pushing the team to change brands prior to the event was all praise for the performance of the Pirelli, admitting post-qualifying that he was ‘stunned’ at the performance of the tyre.

“The Pirelli tyre surprised me a lot, I know them from Blancpain Series last year,” he explained. “I thought with 35 degrees, and the new surface, it would be really quite critical for tyres, but I have to say, to be honest they really surprised me. From lap one to lap ten they are all the same pace, no drop at all, so it doesn’t matter if I reach traffic in lap one, because I can do the same lap time in lap ten again. It looks like we can even do triple stint on one set of tyres, so that’s surprising, but I’m happy about that fact.”

Sadly for Mies, despite working his way back onto the lead lap during his opening stint behind the wheel and catching the top three, the car was caught up in the big accident at Skyline between the Ferrari and the Nissan, and it glanced the wall avoiding contact which ultimately forced a suspension issue that cost the team valuable laps in the pits. Despite this the young German set a stunning pace, in the end just two one hundredths slower than the best of Craig Lowndes in the race winning Ferrari despite campaigning a car one generation older.

Despite the high track temperatures during the afternoon, the Pirelli technicians reported no tyre failures, something which the two Pirelli shod Porsches were grateful for. Unfortunately both suffered mechanical problems during the race, whilst the remaining Porsches suffered ongoing tyre failures by trying to run too long on their medium compound tyres costing them valuable track position. Garth Walden - one of the most experienced drivers in the field - admitted that he was very impressed with his first serious involvement with Pirelli and that the Andrew MacPherson team in their Porsche Cup S could run three stints or more on the Pirelli medium with no problem at all.

“I’ve had a little bit to do with the Pirelli in the past, but not at an endurance event like this,” he explained. “The wear was negligible, even in the heat, but the performance just didn’t drop off, in fact my quickest lap was towards the end of my second stint, they were just incredible.”

The SAFE-T-STOP Porsche of Richard Gartner too concurred, the team suggesting that they were so confident with their tyre life that the could effect just a single tyre change for the 2015 event. “It’s not something we’d recommend given debris on the circuit over a long race like this, but certainly all the data shows that they are exactly right,” Trofeo Motorsport’s Motorsport Tyre Manager Chris Montgomery confirmed.

Post-event much of the discussion was centred on tyres and more particularly to the performance of the Pirelli, a number of leading European teams admitting to Pirelli’s Blancpain engineer Colin Brunton that they’d ‘made a mistake’. “I think they were all very surprised by the speed of the Pirelli tyre,” he explained.

“In some cases we weren’t able to provide a size to suit them in the softer compound, so they chose an alternative, but in the end, despite being as many as two compounds harder than those alternatives, the Pirelli hard tyre was capable of going faster, but critically, not failing after as many as three consecutive stints during the heat of the day. In motor racing you can only tell people so much, but now the proof is undeniable - I think you’ll see a dramatic change to our numbers in 2015.”

2014 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour
Race [12-Hours] (Mount Panorama, Bathurst - 8 February)
01. 88. Edwards/Bowe/Lowndes/Salo (Ferrari 458 Italia - A) - 296-laps
02. 84. Primat/Jaeger/Buhk (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 - A) - 296-laps
03. 63. Davison/Le Brocq/Crick (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 - A) - 296-laps
04. 37. Quinn/Quinn/Kirkaldy/Van Gisbergen (McLaren MP4-12C/Pirelli - A) - 296-laps
05. 3. Frey/Rast/Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS ultra - A) - 296-laps
06. 25. Patterson/Lux/Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS ultra - A) - 294-laps
07. 1. Schneider/Engel/Bastian (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 - A) - 291-laps
08. 4. Grove/Bamber/Barker (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup - B) - 286-laps
09. 12. Calvert-Jones/Davison/Long (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup - B) - 284-laps
10. 9. Cini/Eddy/Mies (Audi R8 LMS ultra/Pirelli - A) - 278-laps
11. 19. Flack/Smith/Smollen (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup - B) - 277-laps
12. 69. Koundouris/Koundouris/Owen/Twigg (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup - B) - 275-laps
13. 99. Hill/Middleton/Bana (Gallardo LP520 - B) - 275-laps
14. 71. Koutsoumidis/Grant/Fiore/Loccisano (Audi R8 LMS/Pirelli - B) - 271-laps
15. 70. Denyer/Gowans/Jacobson/Miedecke (MARC Focus GTC/Pirelli - I) - 268-laps
16. 22. Billington/Scott/Owers (Seat Leon Supercopa - D) - 247-laps
17. 50. Kassulke/Camilleri/Pither (MARC Focus GTC/Pirelli - I) - 246-laps
18. 96. Youlden/Gover/Hede/Sinclair (Fiat Abarth 500 - F) - 243-laps
19. 60. Benton/Morrall/Thomas/McLeod (MARC Focus GTC/Pirelli - I) - 242-laps
20. 28. O'Donnell/Shephard/Booker/Chahda (BMW 335i - D) - 238-laps
21. 51. MacPherson/Porter/Walden (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup/Pirelli - B) - 237-laps
22. 95. Stokell/Hagon/Dowling/Campbell (Fiat Abarth 500 - F) - 236-laps
23. 66. Driver/Stutterd/Stewart (Seat Leon Supercopa - D) - 212-laps
24. 7. Herridge/O'Dowd/Kennard (Subaru WRX Sti/Pirelli - D) - 208-laps
25. 54. Alford/Leemhuis/O'Connor (Lotus - C) - 204-laps
26. 35. Shaw/Padayachee/Fisher/Zerefos (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup - B) - 183-laps
27. 97. Mortimer/Mortimer/Lyons/Lyons (BMW M3 GT4/Pirelli - D) - 126-laps
28. 59. Cherry/Campbell/Ellery (Fiat Abarth 500 - F) - 10-laps
DNF. 65. Augustine/Schoots/Freestone (Daytona Sportscar/Pirelli - D) - 236-laps
DNF. 67. Lowrey/Richards/Venter (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup - B) - 208-laps
DNF. 45. Padayachee/Muscat/Mawer (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup - B) - 190-laps
DNF. 17. Griffith/Reindler/Gaunt (Ginetta G50 GT4/Pirelli - C) - 181-laps
DNF. 6. Gartner/Duffy/Hector/Kostera (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup/Pirelli - B) - 168-laps
DNF. 14. Gavin/Huff/Meins/Gleason (Audi R8 LMS - B) - 91-laps
DNF. 48. McMillan/Richards/Wood/Lilley (Gallardo FLII GT3/Pirelli - A) - 78-laps
DNF. 55. Shedden/Storey/Gower (Lotus Exige - C) - 68-laps
DNF. 32. Kelly/Chiyo/Buncombe/Reip (Nissan GT-R Nismo GT - A) - 58-laps
DNF. 33. Mok/Baird/Griffin/Hamaguchi (Ferrari 458 Italia - A) - 57-laps
DNF. 23. Lago/Russell/Kox (Lamborghini Gallardo FLII GT3- A) - 5-laps
DNF. 42. Gilbertson/Chapel/Clements (BMW M3 E46 GTR - D) - 1-lap

Qualifying (Mount Panorama, Bathurst - 8 February)
01. 1. Schneider/Engel/Bastian (Erebus Motorsport SLS AMG GT3) - 2:03.8586
02. 88. Edwards/Bowe/Lowndes/Salo (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 2:03.9421
03. 37. Quinn/Quinn/Kirkaldy/Van Gisbergen (McLaren MP4-12C/Pirelli) - 2:04.0006
04. 63. Davison/Le Brocq/Crick (Erebus Motorsport SLS AMG GT3) - 2:04.2563
05. 32. Kelly/Chiyo/Buncombe/Reip (Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3) - 2:04.8228
06. 23. Lago/Russell/Kox (Lamborghini Gallardo FLII GT3) - 2:05.0320
07. 9. Cini/Eddy/Mies (Audi R8 LMS ultra/Pirelli) - 2:05.5919
08. 3. Frey/Rast/Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS ultra) - 2:05.5946
09. 25. Patterson/Lux/Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS ultra) - 2:05.7175
10. 48. McMillan/Richards/Wood/Lilley (Gallardo FLII GT3/Pirelli) - 2:06.3498

2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli - calendar
Rnd#1, 28-30 March - Sandown, Victoria [The Nationals]
Rnd#2, 23-25 May - Phillip Island, VIC [The Nationals]
Rnd#3, 4-6 July - Townsville, Queensland [V8 Supercars]
Rnd#4, 22-24 August - Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW [V8 Supercars]
Rnd#5, 12-14 September - Sandown, Victoria [V8 Supercars]
Rnd#6, 7-9 November – Highlands Motorsport Park, NZ

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