A MERCEDES-BENZ will aim to shake up the Production Car establishment at this Easter’s Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour enduro – the marquee event within the 2016 Bathurst Motor Festival.
Long-time Bathurst racer Ron Searle and former V8 Supercar pilot Garth Walden will contest the race with a Mercedes-Benz AMG A45 – the first of its kind in Australia to take on the Mitsubishi, BMW and Subaru-dominated establishment at the pointy end of the Production Car pack.
A noted Mercedes enthusiast, Searle purchased the car last year while Walden’s Sydney-based operation is well advanced on its construction - with plans to test the car for the first time early next week.
Powered by a two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine and featuring drive to all four wheels, the A45 looks on paper to be a match for the otherwise dominant Mitsubishi Lancer EVOs that have dominated the sport for the last decade.
“Ron and I decided we’d like to run this event and take on the EVOs for outright honours,” Walden explained.
“As Ron is a Mercedes enthusiast and collector we went looking at the A45. I did a lot of research on the car and it came up strong in every department.”
Walden tested the road-going version of the car late last year at Sydney Motorsport Park and said the numbers stacked up on-track.
“It was really great at the test, considering it was still a road-going car, but it had heaps of power and we were stoked how good the numbers were.
“It wasn’t far off pole position for the AMChamp round at the same track. Its 120kg lighter than the Mitsubishi’s as well, which should help.
“The car was in the paint shop over Christmas and we’ll be ready to test by the end of February.”
The Searle / Walden combination isn’t a new one – the pair having worked together in the early 2000s building and running a VS Holden Commodore in the V8 Supercars Development Series at the time.
Walden is no stranger to the Mountain, either – with race starts in the Bathurst 1000 and Bathurst 12 Hour races to his credit. Driving with his father – Brian – and Michael Auld, Walden won his class in the around-the-clock enduro in both 2008 and 2009.
The A45 AMG will be entered in the A1 class for high performance cars with forced induction (turbocharged or supercharged) which is where a majority of the key 6-hour contenders are likely to be entered.
The Mercedes will join the Mitsubishi Lancer’s, Subaru’s and BMWs as race favourites for the six-hour enduro.
More than 20 entries have been received in the A1 and A2 (high performance, normally aspirated) classes while the current overall entry list stands at more than 50 cars.
Entries close on February 19 ahead of the race on March 25-27. The race will be streamed live via www.bathurstmotorfestival.com.au on Easter Sunday, with highlights to air on SBS Speedweek following the race.
The Bathurst Motor Festival is proudly supported by the NSW Government as part of its Regional Flagship Events Program.