THE GROWTH of the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 hour has been demonstrated with a display of brand-new cars constructed for the 2017 race on show today at Mount Panorama.
Enormous interest in the Production Car event has seen 65 cars confirmed for the race this year, several of them brand-new racing versions of current road-going cars that are on sale to the general public.
It boosts the ‘showroom showdown’ nature of the race and links back to the heritage of endurance racing at Mount Panorama, founded on series production vehicles in the early 1960s.
Amongst the new cars built include a Ford Focus RS for defending winners Nathan Morcom and Chaz Mostert, and a brand-new BMW M4 for last year’s runners-up, Queensland brothers Grant and Iain Sherrin.
An expanded Garth Walden Racing team has a pair of Mercedes-Benz AMG A45s on track while Conroy Motorsport (Kia Proceed GT) and the MX5 Mania team (Alfa Romeo Gulietta QV) have ensured the class battles also feature an influx of new metal.
However the headline act is set to be the Focus RS turbo entered by Nathan Morcom’s DPO squad – the latest in a long line of Ford hot hatches set to be one of the key contenders this weekend.
“It’s looking promising, it’s been good in testing and I’ll give you a little hint, it’s been quicker, and that’s a positive and what we’ve been chasing this whole time,” Morcom said.
“Chaz hasn’t been in it yet because we haven’t had the time. We only finished the car recently and we’re still doing little bits and pieces now.
“We took it out the other week and we’ve done a couple of shakedowns. It’s reliable so far, which is great.”
Morcom, who now races in the Supercars Super2 Championship, said the Ford program was a case of the right opportunity presenting itself at the right time – though the stats on the all-wheel-drive hatch added up, too.
“The car sort of fell in our lap, that someone else had planned to build it but it fell through. We looked at the regs and thought ‘this car could be pretty quick.’” He explained.
“Our BMW was 10 years old so it was time to update to something new. We won the race outright with a class B car last year so we’re keen to see if we can do it again with something in Class A.”
Morcom’s team will also run their existing BMW 335i turbo with Jack Perkins to be joined by Leigh Burges for the race.
Other outright contenders are likely to include the pair of Garth Walden Racing Mercedes’, a similar A45 entered by two-time 12-hour champion Rod Salmon and Nathan Antunes, the Sherrin’s BMW M4, CXC Global Racing’s Mistubishi Lancer (to be driven by Dylan Thomas and Tim Slade) and the powerhouse combination of David Wall and John Bowe, also in a Mitsubishi.
Meanwhile, the battle for class honours is likely to be similarly intense.
New South Wales racer Steve Williams will race alongside son, Jake, and Gerry Burges in the first Kia ProCeed GT to be built for Production Car Racing.
With experienced team Conroy Motorsport having recently completed the car, Williams said he was looking forward to the race.
“I’m excited, really excited. It’s a good feeling to do it with your son when you can,” he said.
“It’s a brand new car that hasn’t turned a wheel but we’ll drive it with a lot of discipline and hopefully be there at the end. This is what it’s all about and this category is going to be huge in the next few years and I think it will grow faster than most other categories – it’s what the people want to see.”
The class D-entered Kia will be in contention for class honours this weekend, the team ready to balance their own race with the demands of managing traffic throughout the race.
“I’m good at keeping an eye on the mirror! There’s some rocketships here and it’s a matter of making sure you stay out of their way and being consistent yourself at the same time,” he explained.
“You’ve got to make it a good, clean run and bring it home in one piece and you should be alright.”
The Kia will compete in Class D, the numerically the second largest class in the entire race behind the A1 forced induction, all-wheel drive battle for outright honours.
David Raddatz and Nick Cancian will race their Alfa Romeo in Class C.
Practice for the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour commences tomorrow morning, with live timing and scoring available through the event website, www.bathurst6hour.com.au.
Tickets are available at the gate and start at just $10 for general admission access.