Mount Panorama has once again served up a day to remember for race fans as the SunEnergy1 Mercedes team secured back-to-back victories in the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Drama, penalties, broken records and brilliant racing were all part of the epic 2023 edition of the popular 12 hour international endurance race as Jules Gounon, Luca Stolz and Kenny Habul all produced strong stints on their way to victory.
With Stolz and Habul picking up their second wins, it was Gounan’s third at the mountain having won his first in 2020 for Bentley Team M-Sport.
Just like his previous two, Gounon would play a pivotal role in his team’s eventual victory as the 28-year-old had the responsibility of bringing the #75 Mercedes-AMG home.
After an epic final battle, the Frenchman ended up crossing the finish-line less than one second ahead of 2019 winner Matt Campbell, who was behind the wheel of the #912 Manthey EMA Porsche he shared with Thomas Preining and Mathieu Jaminet.
Rounding out the podium was polesitter Maro Engel, who finished less than one and a half seconds behind the winner – highlighting the closeness of the top three.
However, while just seconds proved the difference at the chequered flag, the race had long been in its thrilling final phase, having really come together with just two hours to go.
Just as they had last year, Gounon and Engel were some of the protagonists of the event and in a case of history repeating itself, Gounon once again had the edge over his German rival.
Their rivalry came to a head at the top of the final hour when a pass at The Chase saw them make contact, which resulted in the Mercedes of Gounon spinning.
Race Control deemed Engel as the one responsible for the incident, and gave a pit-lane penalty as punishment for the dramatic incident.
The move then dropped him down to third, and 10 seconds behind the second placed Campbell.
The penalty wasn’t the first time Engel and his GruppeM team had suffered a setback throughout the race, with the #999 Mercedes-AMG’s data logger modem malfunctioning.
However despite multiple issues, the raw pace of the GruppeM #999 Mercedes-AMG of Engel, Mikael Grenier and Raffaele Marciello allowed them to always work their way back into the contest.
Unfortunately, that final penalty would prove too much and they were just unable to catch the highly deserving winners.
In fourth place was Sheldon van der Linde in the #32 WRT BMW with Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, while Broc Feeney, Shane van Gisbergen and Maximilian Gotz made up the top five in their 888 Supercheap Auto Mercedes-AMG.
Click here to view the race results.
As for the race itself, a number of records were broken including laps completed and the overall completed distance.
With far less safety car interventions compared to previous editions, the class of 2023 were able to complete a record 323-laps over the course of the 12 hours and run a record 2006 kilometres.
The result also sees Mercedes equal Audi for the record number of Bathurst 12 victories, with each brand now having three wins in total.
Round Two of the Intercontinental GT Challenge is the Kyalami 9 Hour, which takes place on February 23-25.