- Jul 23, 2014
For the first time since the 1992 Bathurst 1000, a Nissan GT-R has won a major motor race at Mount Panorama Circuit, thanks to an astonishing drive by NISMO Global Athlete driver Katsumasa Chiyo in the last laps of the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour race.
With fifteen minutes to go in what had been a chaotic and frantic running of Australia's biggest GT endurance race, Chiyo had to pass seven slower cars just to get within striking distance of the leading duo of Bentley driver Matt Bell and Audi GT ace Laurens Vanthoor, who set the fastest lap in qualifying on Saturday with a new track record - becoming the inaugural winner of the Allan Simonsen Pole Trophy, named in honor of the late Danish driver who for many years was a mainstay in Australian GT racing, competing in events such as the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Using the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3's speed advantage on the long, undulating straights of Mount Panorama, the 27-year old Japanese pilot maneuvered through the traffic to catch up to the leaders before the final Safety Car period out of a record twenty during the entire race, that resulted in the race coming down to Bell, Vanthoor, Chiyo, and a two-lap sprint to the checquered flag. A masterfully-timed restart allowed Chiyo to zip past Vanthoor right after the start/finish line, and then, using that same overwhelming straight-line speed, Chiyo was past Bell before the leaders approached Griffith's Bend - and he would sail off into the distance as the Nissan GT-R - affectionately known as "Godzilla" just as its predecessors were in Australia - conquered Bathurst for the first time in twenty-three years in a wildly popular triumph.
It was also the very first major endurance racing victory for Chiyo's teammates, both of whom are graduates of the Nissan GT Academy: Belgium's Wolfgang Reip, who drove the Nissan ZEOD RC at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, and RaceDepartment's very own Florian Strauss, who just one week ago, wasn't even scheduled to be a part of the race-winning team - that was until original driver Alex Buncombe had to withdraw from the event five days ago, due to the birth of his first child. Strauss has progressed quite a ways since his years as a standout of leagues including the RD Formula Pro Championship and TPS Virtual V8 Supercars - just last month he helped propel the NISMO team to fifth overall in the Dubai 24 Hour race.
Once Chiyo checked out to victory, the battle for second flared up as the Craft Bamboo Aston Martin Vantage of Stefan Mucke joined Bell and Vanthoor in the fight. Despite valiant efforts to hold off the hard-charging Mucke and Vanthoor, an error at Murray's Corner caused the British GT standout Bell to concede not only second, but third place as well. In the end, polesitter Vanthoor brought the crocodile-themed Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra to second place, an effort co-driven by Marcus Winkelhock and Marco Mapelli. Mucke, joined by his Aston Martin Racing teammates in the World Endurance Championship - two-time Bathurst 12 Hour winner Darryl O'Young and Alex MacDowall - drove the Craft Bamboo Aston to third, with Bell's M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 and co-drivers Guy Smith and Steven Kane finishing fourth.
The Erebus Motorsports Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG of Jack Le Brocq, Dean Canto, and Richard Muscat rounded out the top five - represented by five different manufacturers. Another stellar drive in the Bathurst 12 Hour race came from Melbourne-based Vicious Rumour Racing, who climbed all the way up from 50th and last on the starting grid after missing qualifying to finish sixth overall - the highest-placing Ferrari 458 GT3 in the field, driven by former Formula One journeyman Andrea Montermini, Renato Loberto, and Allan's younger brother Benny Simonsen.
In total, the winning NISMO Global Athlete Team completed just 268 laps in twelve hours due to the multiple safety car interruptions - the lowest total in the history of the race under GT3 regulations.
In an event that could have suffered immensely due to an unpopular ban on V8 Supercars drivers participating in the race during that series' winter testing - including last year's hero Craig Lowndes - the Bathurst 12 Hour still had a phenomenal turnout of fans who came to the mountain and watched the race live, all around the world at RaceDepartment.com, and was able to showcase new talents to the international motorsport stage, while delivering yet another thrilling finish for the ages.
Watch it here:
GT-R wins Bathurst 12HR 2015 - Winning Moment