British outfit Bentley Team M-Sport are finally kings of the mountain after taking out the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
In what was their sixth attempt at the iconic Mount Panorama endurance race, the British team, made up of international stars Jules Gounon, Maxime Soulet and Jordan Pepper, were sensational during the 12 hour event, dominating the field after starting at dawn in 11th place.
Despite facing a frantic final few laps, which involved a tyre puncture, the team was able to hold on to their lead from the chasing pack and Gounan was a mix of both thrilled and relieved to finally take out the win.
“It was an amazing race,” Gounon said post-race.
“Obviously after yesterday I never thought we’d have the pace to win the race but I think the track came to us towards the end of the race, the track rubbered up.
“It was really, really tense at the end because I had a puncture before the last stint so the team was really scared after the puncture of (Raffaele) Marciello.
“It was a matter of trying to keep the car away from the kerbs, the debris, so it was tense still; not flat out but trying to manage the problem.
“It’s amazing for us, amazing for M-Sport, I think the new car showed potential last year and we’ve never had a big win except Paul Ricard, so it’s a big one for us.”
While the rain stayed away throughout the whole race, avoiding any weather related incident's, there was still post-race drama with the second placed #999 Mercedes AMG GT3 being handed a post-race penalty, having been judged with rear wheels spinning during their final pit stop.
The 30-second time penalty saw Felipe Fraga and Maximilian Buhk and Marciello demoted to sixth place outright, giving the provisional third placed 59Racing and EMA Racing McLaren 720S GT3 an outright runner-up finish for the trio of Alvaro Parente, Ben Barnicoat and Tom Blomqvist.
The #7 Bentley crossing the finish line. Photo: Edge Photographics.
Another beneficiary of the penalty and eventual third place-getters was Mercedes-AMG Team Triple Eight Racing's Shane van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup and Maximilian Götz after the 2019 Supercars runner-up won an entertaining battle for fourth over last year's Bathurst 12 hour winner Matt Campbell in the race's final stages.
The other GT3 classes saw the second 59 Racing team take out the Silver class with Dominic Storey, Fraser Ross and Martin Kodric steering their McLaren 720S GT3 to an outright eighth place, while two places below was the Grove Racing Porsche GT3 as Stephen Grove, Brenton Grove and Benjamin Barker ended the race with the Pro-Am class.
With only 23 of the 39 cars finishing the event, the final class of the race saw the 22nd placed Daren Jorgensen, Brett Strom and Danny van Dongen beat Harrison Newey, Mark Griffith and Dirk Muller for GT4 honours.