A busy week of pre-Christmas announcements has seen four new GT3 entries confirmed for the 2019 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour on February 1-3.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli season opener always attracts strong senior class representation from around the world and within Australia, and it’s local teams representing Porsche, McLaren, Lamborghini and Audi that have been busy firming up their plans this past week ahead of the full entry list being revealed tomorrow (Friday 21 December).
COMPETITION MOTORSPORT RETURNS WITH PORSCHE FACTORY DRIVERS ESTRE AND EVANS
Following another top-five finish in 2018, Competition Motorsports is returning to Bathurst with Porsche’s support in February to fight for overall and class honours.
David Calvert-Jones, the driving force behind the Ice Break Extra Shot flown by Virgin Australia entry, also heads up the driver roster alongside two Porsche representatives: Kevin Estre and Jaxon Evans.
Factory ace Estre requires no introduction after winning this year’s GTE Pro class at the Le Mans 24 Hours. He has also represented Porsche in GT3 competition around the world, including in Intercontinental GT Challenge.
However, his 22-year-old Kiwi co-driver will be less well-known to an international audience despite enjoying a standout year winning the Australian Porsche Carrera Cup. Evans subsequently went a step further by beating 10 other international candidates in the Porsche Motorsport Junior Programme to earn himself a Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup drive in 2019. Bathurst will be his first outing as an official Porsche Junior.
OBJECTIVE ADDS McLAREN’S WATSON
Jaxon Evans’ new role with Porsche has had a knock-on effect at Objective Racing, which has tweaked its driver line-up ahead of Bathurst by drafting in McLaren’s Blancpain GT Series ace Andrew Watson.
The 23-year-old from Belfast, Northern Ireland joins team owner Tony Walls and Warren Luff in the jet-black 650S GT3 as part of a promising Pro/Am line-up. The team had initially planned to run Evans for a second season before his official Porsche commitments saw the Kiwi switch to Competition Motorsport.
Tim Slade, who has driven for the team for the last three years, is also unavailable after committing to race with his Blancpain GT Series Asia squad, HubAuto Corsa.
Watson enters his fifth year as a McLaren driver having initially joined its development programme in 2015. He has two starts at the Bathurst 12 Hour and finished 11th outright, as well as fifth in the Pro/Am class, driving a YNA Autosport McLaren 650S GT3 with Scott McLaughlin, Fraser Ross and Alexander West in 2018.
He finished ninth in the 2016 race, sharing a Tekno Autosport entry with Will Davison and Rob Bell.
Luff is a former 12 Hour podium finisher and also holds one of the most impressive records in the history of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 – without actually yet winning the race.
Now driving for Walkinshaw Andretti United, he has finished second or third in five of the last seven years in the Great Race, including second in the last two encounters with Scott Pye.
WALL RACING LAMBORGHINI FOR DEITZ, McCONVILLE, WESTWOOD & D’ALBERTO
2019 sees Wall Racing returning to the scene of their double class podium with the same Lamborghini Huracan that was successfully campaigned by Adrian Deitz and Cameron McConville in the 2018 Australian GT Endurance Championship.
They will be joined at Bathurst by Tony D’Alberto, the current Australian GT Endurance Champion, and Julian Westwood.
Westwood, who hails from the UK, is no stranger to endurance racing having previously won the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Am title and claimed class victories at the Total 24 Hours of Spa and Nurburgring. He recently finished third in the Porsche Carrera Cup Class at the Dubai 24 Hours.
This will be Adrian Deitz’s first time racing at Bathurst, having run the Challenge Bathurst in November.
HALLMARC AUDI TEAM CONFIRMS CINI, HOLDSWORTH & FIORE
Supercars regulars Lee Holdsworth and Dean Fiore will return to the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in 2019 in a continuation of their long-term partnership with Marc Cini.
The trio join forces aboard Cini’s Hallmarc Property Group Audi R8 LMS for the third consecutive year and will likely be strong contenders for the BRM Chronographes Pro-Am class honours. The car will be run by Audi Sport Customer Racing Australia.
Cini, Holdsworth and Fiore failed to finish at Bathurst in 2018 after coming ninth overall the year before.
Holdsworth, who departed Team 18 after this year’s Virgin Australia Championship campaign, is currently without announced plans for 2019 while Fiore finished seventh in the Dunlop Super2 Series driving a MW Motorsport Nissan Altima.
Cini, meanwhile, finished 21st outright and seventh in the Pro-Am class of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship where he is the series’ most experienced driver.