Australia’s unique GT enduro just grows and grows, on track and off.
THE 2017 edition of the LiquiMoly Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race for GT cars has measured up positively by most counts including attendances, television viewers, web streaming, social media activity and, significantly, feedback from international drivers and teams.
One comment in particular stands out. Oliver Jarvis, the ex-Audi LMP1 driver who is now a factory racer for Bentley, was all awe and wonder after his Continental GT3 started 23rd and finished on the podium.
“This is in an incredible place and I don’t think I’ve been in a race as brutal as that,” Jarvis told UK’s Autosport.
Of the 51 starters, 19 went out via crashes or, in a few rare cases, mechanical failure. Today’s production-based cars are spectacularly reliable.
In a measure of competitiveness across many manufacturers, seven brands finished inside the top eight outright positions.
There were seven different race leaders and 23 changes up front.
Across a sweltering Bathurst weekend, the race pulled a record 40,000-plus three-day crowd – still modest by Bathurst 1000 comparisons. But the graph is heading in the right direction.
Importantly, too, the free-to-air television audience on the Seven Network beat last year’s figures despite it being consigned to 7Mate by programmers who seem to be favouring Davis Cup tennis on the main channel.
More than two million people watched some or all of the Sunday race, either on TV, the live streaming coverage or via highlight videos posted on social media throughout the day.
The Sunday telecast on 7Mate averaged over 400,000 nationally - up five percent year-on-year in the metro markets and up two percent nationally. A further 219,000 viewers nationally watched the Pirelli Top 10 Shootout on Saturday.
The Bathurst 12 Hour comfortably beat the tennis, which surely will give the Seven nabobs food for thought next year. The 12 Hour was the most watched of any televised sport over the weekend, an outcome that delighted John Casey, of Supercars Australia and promoter of the Bathurst 12 Hour.
“I was happy to be on 7Mate because we were there all day - no platform changes, which made us easy to watch,” he said.
“Everyone wants to be on the main channel - but at least we got all 12 hours plus the Shootout on Saturday, and then one hour of highlights the following Saturday and Sunday. I would say they [Seven] supported the event well.”
Additionally, the Bathurst 12 Hour attracted 800,000 live streams of qualifying and the race from around the world. A further 938,536 watched video highlights posted by the event on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
A post-produced three-hour highlights show will be broadcast in 86 countries across North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Asked about any possible changes to the event in the future, Casey told Wheels that “in terms of direction, it is critical we continue to support the local car owners/drivers. They are the backbone of the event”.
That will be music to the ears of Australian teams concerned that the growing international flavour and status would possibly rule them out of future Bathurst 12 Hours.
Casey continued: “Going forward I would like to tidy up the class structure a little - Am means amateur! This will mean the [class] races within the race are fairer.
“Other than that, some operational improvements, new driver briefings, ongoing driver standards improvements, and so on we’ll be doing nothing to touches the essence of the event.
“Off track, we’ll do more for the fans and manufacturers so the venue will become even more of a place for people who love cars… Cars and Coffee, displays from participating brands and track sessions post event…that sort of stuff.”