PREVIEW: BATHURST 6 HOUR RACE WEEK UNDERWAY
BATHURST’S newest Easter tradition continues this week as the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour race week gets underway in the stunning Central West region of New South Wales. The fourth running of the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour Production Car event will bring more than 300 competitors, drivers, teams, families, supporters and race fans into the region – with a total of over 18,000 expected to attend the April 19-21 event.In just thee years the race has established itself as a regular classic on the local endurance racing calendar.First staged in 2016, the inaugural Bathurst 6 Hour saw Supercars ace Chaz Mostert team with long-time friend Nathan Morcom to win, driving a BMW 335i turbo.A dramatic 2017 race saw Paul Morris become the first driver in Bathurst history to win three ‘major’ distance races at Mount Panorama, his six-hour win with Luke Searle adding to his Bathurst 1000 and 12-Hour triumphs.That race was a thriller as Searle resisted a charging Mostert, driving a Ford Focus, in the closing stages to win by just nine seconds in another Bathurst thriller.The drama continued into the 2018 race, the closest of the three yet staged.Queensland brothers and Production Car series champions Grant and Iain Sherrin won the race driving a BMW M4, however only raced their way to the lead in the final half-hour of racing.American drivers Darren Jorgensen and Brett Strong led the race in the closing stages and ultimately finished second, just 3.2 seconds behind the brothers Sherrin. Rob Woods, Marcel Zalloua and Steven Johnson finished third, only 0.4 seconds behind the second-placed BMW.All three were earlier chasing the pole-sitting BMW M3 Competition driven by Beric Lynton and Orange’s Tim Leahey, who had looked likely contenders before mechanical issues ruled them out late in the race.The German marque has never been beaten at Easter, winning all three races with three different models and finishing 1-2 in 2016 and 2018.Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution entries have twice finished on the podium while Ford (Focus RS) and Mercedes (AMG A45) have featured once each.The 2019 field includes the defending winners, who will be keen to give BMW their fourth-straight 6-hour win and become the first to defend their outright victory.Beric Lynton and Tim Leahey – who last year set a qualifying lap record (2m22.904s), some three seconds beneath the existing benchmark – are also back with a year’s worth of development beneath their own BMW.The outright field includes plenty of local muscle, with the FPV GT-F to be driven by Jeremy Gray, George Miedecke and Andrew Miedecke expected to be strong.From the red side of the equation, the HSV VF GTS to be driven by Joe Krinelos, Tony Virag and Bathurst 1000 and 12-Hour winner John Bowe also looks to be a competitive package – Bowe able to join Paul Morris as a winner of Bathurst’s three ‘majors’.In the truest of Bathurst traditions, class racing is a key component of the race with plenty on the line within the seven different ‘races within a race’.Only one combination has ever defended their Bathurst 6 Hour class victory: Brian Walden, Richard Bloomfield and Michael Auld combining to win Class B2 in both 2016 and ’17 driving a Holden Commodore SS.No other combination or single driver has won their respective class on more than one occasion.The Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6-hour has never been won from pole position, though the winner has come from second on the grid in the last two years.The race lap and distance record (125 laps, 776km) was set in 2016, while last year the winners completed 109 laps or 677km of Mount Panorama.The bumper weekend of racing includes five support categories, featuring more than 250 competitors and a broad mix of machinery.Heritage Touring Cars (featuring the original Group C and Group A Touring Cars that contested the Bathurst 1000 in the 1970s and 1980s) make their return, as do the popular Improved Production cars with a field full of diversity.The one-make Hyundai Excel Racing are likely to put on a show while a pair of one-hour Production Sports Car races will add another endurance element to the weekend. Porsche Club of NSW regularity adds another dimension to the on track product.The Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour field will tackle practice on Good Friday (19 April) ahead of qualifying for the big race on Saturday. The 2019 edition commences at 11:30am on Easter Sunday (21 April) and will be shown live on FOX Sports 506, Kayo Sports and via an international live stream available via the Bathurst 6 Hour website.Ticket sales are available online via the event website, while campgrounds can still be purchased at the gate.