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.
SRO Motorsports Group / Xynamic Automotive Photography
Facebook: Intercontinental GT Challenge
INTERCONTINENTAL GT CHALLENGE POWERED BY PIRELLI
Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli represents the highest echelon of long-distance GT racing.
Established in 2016, the series’ purpose couldn’t be simpler: reward the manufacturer and drivers who achieve the best collective results in the world’s greatest standalone endurance events.
The proliferation of GT3, built on more than a decade of manufacturer involvement and SRO’s Balance of Performance stability, has resulted in it becoming the de facto senior class for all of the world’s most prestigious GT races. This, as well as using the same Pirelli tyres, offers manufacturers an incentive to compete in all such events by employing regional customer teams without the expense of freighting cars around the world.
As many as five events on as many continents have comprised each campaign, although the recent global pandemic prevented the likes of the Suzuka 10 Hours and Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour from going ahead in recent seasons. Happily, the latter returns to kickstart 2022 in May before GT3 racing’s crown jewel – the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa – takes centre stage. It’s then on to North America for the Indianapolis 8 Hour Powered by AWS – an event shared with Fanatec GT World Challenge America – before the Gulf 12 Hours closes out the season.
PIRELLI – OFFICIAL TYRE SUPPLIER
Pirelli is a tyre manufacturer and world leader in the automotive industry. It has an exclusive relationship with over 50 racing series worldwide, including Formula One.
Pirelli has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing, and has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world. The design of the new Pirelli GT tyres meets the needs of GT racing while maintaining the performance characteristics that endurance drivers have appreciated in the past. The slick tyres used for GT racing are branded Zero: just like the slicks that have become a central feature of Formula One. The name P Zero is used in the highest categories of motorsport such as GT racing.
SRO MOTORSPORTS GROUP – THE GLOBAL LEADER IN GT RACING
With three decades’ experience at the forefront of a continuously evolving industry, SRO Motorsports Group is the established global leader in GT racing. A busy 2022 season will see events staged under the SRO banner on five continents, highlighted by the prestigious TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
The company’s expanding portfolio of series includes Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS categories in America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Each retains its unique identity, while also allowing competing manufacturers to dispute a global title through their continental representatives.
Staged since 2016, the flagship Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli sees world-leading automotive brands tackle marquee events across the globe. Considerable emphasis is placed on amateur competitors thanks to a range of series combining a relaxed environment with highly professional standards, while SRO also works with the FIA to organise and promote the FIA Motorsport Games, a multi-disciplinary event in which drivers compete in the colours of their national flag.
A wide variety of international and domestic categories catering for GT2, GT3, GT4 and touring car machinery add further strength to the extensive on-track programme, while the burgeoning sim racing scene has taken on considerable importance in recent years. This includes the ground-breaking Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series, where professional drivers compete virtually to score points towards the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS teams’ championship, as well as online competitions for leading sim racers.
In addition to promotion and organisation, the company operates the SRO Race Centre by MMC service facility at Circuit Paul Ricard, and provides the ultimate driving opportunities at world-renowned venues through Curbstone Track Events. Combining a passion for performance with industry-leading experience, SRO continues to play a key role in shaping the future of global GT racing.
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