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MCLAREN 650S GT3 BATHURST 12 HOUR WINNER
VAN GISBERGEN/A.PARENTE/J.WEBB #59A
Victory at Bathurst anytime is special, however victory in the circuit’s 12 Hour GT classic is fast becoming a ‘must-achieve’ on the resume of racing drivers all over the world.
In 2016 the race featured a wide and varied list of drivers and cars, however it was the McLaren 650S GT3 of Shane van Gisbergen, Jonathon Webb and Alvaro Parente that claimed victory on a day of high drama.
Pole-sitter van Gisbergen - who also set a new outright Bathurst lap record of 2m01.567s on lap 23 in the early stages of the race - fought off Nissan driver (and defending 12 Hour winner) Katsumasa Chiyo in the closing stages to record McLaren’s first major win at Mount Panorama.
But their pathway to victory in the 12 Hour wasn’t easy. The 650S was delayed on lap 101 when it ground to a halt with Parente at the helm on Pit Straight. The Portuguese pilot was able to re-set the car and resume, catching back up most of the time under the next Safety Car period.
Later in the day van Gisbergen picked up a drive through penalty for speeding in pit lane, again getting much of it back under the next Safety Car period.
But he and his team wouldn’t be denied as they went on to claim victory in a race that ran 297 laps (1845 kilometres), featured 13 Safety Car period, a record 29 lead changes and four cars finishing on the lead lap with the McLaren leading home a Nissan GT-R, Bentley Continental and Audi R8.
“It was a pretty long day,” said van Gisbergen post-race.
“The first stint was really awesome, I really enjoyed myself out there. It was pretty tough, I had never driven around here in the dark and we didn’t have our big lights on so couldn’t see much (in the early stages).
“Then (later) everything was pretty rosy, I went back to the hotel to chill out and watching Alvaro going well, and then just saw the car stop going to the last corner so I was heart in mouth there, but thankfully it re-fired and gave us no more issues for the rest of the day, so, yeah, a pretty cool way to finish as well.”
For Portuguese pilot Parente, a former open wheeler driver who won the 2005 British F3 Championship and became a factory GT3 driver for McLaren in 2012, the win at Bathurst marked the perfect debut at the famous circuit.
“That was fantastic, I don’t know what to say – thanks to my two teammates, Shane and Jon have been fantastic all week,” he said.
“Learning the track quickly you know, what a fantastic track you guys have here. I really enjoyed it and learnt it quickly and was on the pace quickly and that is important always. You know we had a few issues today, but at the end we went with the right strategy options and everything went smoothly, and I couldn’t be happier. (When the car stopped) that wasn’t good, I knew what I had to do with the car, it wasn’t letting me do it straight away so we lost a little more seconds than I predicated but thankfully it got restarted and it all went to plan.”
20 of the 36 starters finished the 2016 Bathurst 12 Hour, however it was simply McLaren’s day as the #59 650S GT3 drove itself into the history books at Australia’s most famous circuit.