Audi Sport customer racing returns to Mount Panorama at the end of January – on the tenth anniversary of their first of three victories at the Bathurst 12 Hour event – looking for a strong result against some of the best teams in the world, the Australian-based Audi Sport Team Valvoline operation carding three 2019 Audi R8s with arguably their strongest lineup ever..
From Audi Sport driver Chris Mies – a two-time Bathurst 12 Hour winner and 2015 Australian GT Champion – to three-time Bathurst 1000 champion Garth Tander, the team includes a list of stars with endurance victories at such iconic venues as Nurburgring, Spa-Francorchamps, Daytona and Suzuka.
2018 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Dries Vanthoor from Belgium will spearhead the #2 Valvoline entry alongside compatriot Frédéric Vervisch – the pair claiming wins in the Nurburgring 24 Hour and Suzuka 10 Hour last year – they will be joined by Germany’s Christopher Haase.
Local hero Garth Tander – who is no stranger to Mount Panorama with 22 Bathurst 1000 starts to his name (and three wins), nor to endurance races having won the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour event (placing second the following year) and the 2019 Australian Endurance Championship – will be joined in the #22 car by Mies, who holds the mantel of the fastest driver ever to circulate Mount Panorama in a GT3 (1:59.2910 – Audi R8 LMS GT3 in late 2018). The third member of the team will be two-time Daytona 24 Hour (GTD) winner Mirko Bortolotti who joins the Audi Sport driver roster this year, the experienced Italian though a rookie at Bathurst, but that is unlikely to affect his renowned pace.
Audi Sport driver Kelvin van der Linde in the #222 entry also returns to the team, a team with whom he enjoyed past success in Australian GT with the Audi Sport Team Valvoline operation, the South African will be looking to improve on the seventh placed finish he enjoyed in the 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour driving alongside Tander and Vervisch. This year, he will be joined by Audi Sport drivers Marcus Winkelhock and rising Italian star Mattia Drudi, who like Bortolotti, is a Bathurst rookie.
“It’s arguably one of the best Audi driver lineups for a three-car team ever assembled,” Audi Sport Team Valvoline’s Steve McLaughlan admitted. “That’s three very competitive cars, any of which is capable of a podium finish, and that will be our focus!
“I don’t like to use the word luck, but we might need a little bit to fall our way this year,” McLaughlan added. “We’ve been so close the last couple of years – qualified strongly, led laps, but just little things you could never account for have kept us from that elusive podium, but I think with the roster of drivers we have this year, and off the back of a very successful national campaign in 2019, we might be able to change all that this year!”
The 2020 Bathurst 12 Hour gets underway on Friday, January 31 with a sequence of one-hour practice sessions ahead of qualifying early Saturday afternoon, whilst the top-ten shootout will take place late on Saturday, with the 12 Hour journey beginning in the early morning light at 5:45am on Sunday, February 2.
- The Audi Sport Team Valvoline driver lineups;
Car#2 – Christopher Haase (GER) / Dries Vanthoor (BEL) / Frédéric Vervisch (BEL)
Car#22 – Mirko Bortolotti (ITA) / Christopher Mies (GER) / Garth Tander (AUS)
Car#222 – Mattia Drudi (ITA) / Kelvin van der Linde (RSA) / Marcus Winkelhock (GER)