Bathurst 12 hour combinations raise eyebrows and level
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While the entrants and cars have been known for several weeks, the driver announcements in recent days has ramped up anticipation for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour endurance race on February 5.
The appearance on the entry list of a second Porsche 911 GT3-R from the Walkinshaw GT squad had raised some eyebrows and the car immediately joins the short list of favourites with an all-Pro factory driver line-up of New Zealand’s 2015 Le Mans winner Earl Bamber teamed with Kevin Estre (France) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium).
It’s arguably the strongest driver squad on the Bathurst entry list with Bamber set for a full FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 campaign with Porsche in 2017 while Estre and Vanthoor are factory Porsche GT drivers with there primary programme for 2017 being the GTLM class of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
Bentley Motorsport has also confirmed its driver roster this week which will see former factory Audi LMP1 racer Oliver Jarvis making his debut as a Bentley driver at the Bathurst enduro.
The two car Bentley effort from the M-Sport operation will see Jarvis teamed with British drivers Guy Smith and Steven Kane in the number 7 Continental GT3 while Maxime Soulet (Belgium), Andy Soucek (Spain) and young French driver Vince Abril are the driver trio for car number 8.
Jarvis, 33, joins the Bentley GT3 programme after five seasons as a factory LMP1 driver for Audi and before that four seasons in the DTM with the same brand.
He is a former winner of the Macau Grand Prix, finished second in the 2016 World Endurance Championship for Audi and has three times finished third in the LeMans 24 Hour. He has also won both the Daytona 24 Hour and the Sebring 12 Hour races in the US.
‘‘After nine years with Audi, it’s time for a new start and a new challenge, Jarvis said.
‘‘I had a few offers on the table but this was the right choice and I couldn't be happier to be joining Bentley as a works driver.
‘‘To be able to start this new and exciting chapter in my life at Bathurst 12 Hour will also be something very special, as it’s a race I’ve been looking forward to tackling for several years.’’
The contingent of Australian Supercars drivers among the GT3 ranks for the 12-Hour has also grown this week with news the MARC GT team has entered its BMW M6 GT3 with a driver line-up spearheaded by 2014 Supercheap Bathurst 1000 winner Chaz Mostert teamed with Australian GT regulars Morgan Haber and Max Twigg.