> 2023 season opener reverts to pre-pandemic class structure
All-Pro driver line-ups will return to the LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour next season following confirmation of the event’s class structure.
The decision paves the way for the world’s best GT drivers to tackle Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli’s season opener Down Under on February 3-5. It will be the first time since 2020 that a crew comprising three professionals has been able to compete at Mount Panorama.
SunEnergy1 Racing became the first team featuring amateur drivers to win the event since 2014 in May when the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing global freight challenges prevented manufacturers from committing their usual level of factory support.
But with those factors no longer an issue, and the event switching back to its traditional date, the 12 Hour’s promoter – Supercars – and IGTC organisers – SRO Motorsports Group – believe the time is right to return to the format that made Australia’s International Enduro one of the world’s top long-distance races.
Three driver combinations – Pro, Pro-Am (crews including at least one Bronze-graded driver) and Silver Cup (all drivers must be categorised Silver or Bronze) – are permitted to compete in Class A (GT3).
Class B will again cater for the popular Porsche GT3 Cup Cars, including the latest Type-992 GT3, while Class C features GT4 machinery. The Invitational class also returns and includes the likes of SRO’s GT2 cars. B and Invitational class entries must include at least one Bronze-ranked driver.
Adverse weather conditions forced organisers to introduce a new qualifying format in 2022. However, it proved so popular that the Top-10 Shootout has officially adopted the same rules going forwards. Following regular qualifying the 10 fastest cars progress to the Shootout, which comprises two 15-minute sessions: one for the lower 50% of the top-10 and another for the top 50%. The fastest driver earns the coveted Allan Simonsen Pole Award.
The importance of Pro-Am competition within the race has also been further enhanced.
Several elements introduced in 2022, such as separate Am-only practice sessions and the amateur driver continuing to play a significant role in the qualifying position of all Pro-Am entries, will remain.
But there will also be stricter regulations regarding the driving standards around professional driver conduct in the race. This entails significantly tougher penalties – including lengthy stop-and-go penalties that could see cars dropped off the lead lap – applied to Pro drivers that make contact with Am competitors at any point throughout the event. These penalties have been included in the revised Sporting and Technical regulations for the 2023 race.
The ‘Lucky Dog’ wave around rule for cars one lap down will also be carried over from 2022.
Shane Rudzis, LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour Event Director: “We’re 100% committed to make the 2023 LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour an incredible show.
“We have worked closely with our partners to develop the formats for 2023 and their commitment, along with communication from manufacturers who want to be back on the Mountain, were enough to convince us that the time was right to return to the all-Pro format for the outright fight.
“At the same time, we have developed a new set of regulations around the driver standards to ensure that the Pro-Am teams and Am drivers are looked after as best as possible, along with many of the Am-centric regulations around driver time and stint length from 2022 remaining in place.
“The decision at the last minute to change qualifying formats in 2022 has proved to be a blessing in disguise in giving the 12 Hour its own unique Shootout format, while still maintaining the uniqueness of needing that one perfect lap to get pole on the Mountain.”
Stephane Ratel, SRO Motorsports Group Founder and CEO: “I’m delighted to see the Pro class returning to IGTC’s season opener in Australia next year. It’s 100% the right decision for Bathurst. The event owes its success and standing as one of the world’s must-win GT races to manufacturer participation, which has become a key 12 Hour component over the past decade. That factory involvement invariably means the sport’s best teams and drivers get to test themselves at Mount Panorama. It’s the combination of those elements that makes for such an incredible spectacle. One of motorsport’s toughest challenges deserves to welcome the very best drivers and that’s exactly who we’ll have with us this coming February.”
2022’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli campaign concludes at the Gulf 12 Hours on December 9-11 before Bathurst kicks off Season Eight of the globetrotting GT3 series early next year.