The opening round of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge – the only intercontinental series for the world’s top GT drivers, with Pirelli as exclusive tire supplier – gets underway this weekend at the famous Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia. The Mount Panorama track is one of the most epic on the planet, with several changes in elevation and some truly demanding corners. Pirelli currently holds the track record, set two years ago in qualifying when there was still open tire competition.
Bathurst provides a formidable challenge for competitors, combining a technical section where it’s hard to overtake, with some faster sections that require massive bravery and commitment. Incidents are common, which has led to a high number of safety car periods in the past.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge showcases the best GT3 drivers in the world in a wide variety of cars. Some of the top stars include factory drivers such as Earl Bamber, Romain Dumas, Augusto Farfus, Robin Frijns, Pat Long, Alvaro Parente and Laurens Vanthoor. Local stars include Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes and Shane Van Gisbergen.
There is also a GT4 category and two local classes (including one for V8 cars). In total, 12 manufacturers are represented in the 53-car field – but they all use the same Pirelli tires.
The Pirelli tires:
Pirelli will bring its P Zero slick specifically designed for GT racing to Bathurst, which has been tried and tested in the Blancpain GT Series, plus a wet tire in case it rains. To cope with the demands of the circuit and expected hot weather during the day, as well as to provide the capability to double-stint, this tire comes in a hard compound only.
Last year, there were numerous safety car periods during the 12 hours, so tailoring the race stop strategy to take advantage of these neutralizations proved to be key. The tires can be double-stinted, but with the race starting at 05:45 and then finishing in the late afternoon, ambient temperatures can vary by 59 degrees Fahrenheit or more, which also has an effect on tire wear and degradation.
Matteo Braga, Pirelli’s Circuit Activity Manager: “Contrary to previous years, we are bringing only one type of tire to the Bathurst 12 Hours this time. This tire works equally well on a wide range of vehicle structures and should have the effect of tightening the competition by removing a number of variables. As a result, this could be the hardest-fought race here yet. The surface at Bathurst is smooth and low-grip, but with high temperatures and challenging corners, there is a lot of work to do for the tires. It’s a circuit with very specific demands.”
The race gets underway on the 3.860-mile track at 05:45 on Sunday 4 February, following two qualifying sessions plus a top-10 grid shoot-out on Saturday. There are four practice sessions on Friday. For more information about the race: www.bathurst12hour.com.au or www.intercontinentalgtchallenge.com