Melbourne’s Trofeo Motorsport will sport a new driver lineup in the #29 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 for the 2019 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the leading Australian team from the 2018 event looking to return to the Pro-Am podium after achieving the feat in 2017, before finishing fourth (and eighth outright) last year.
For two years the popular Lamborghini team have campaigned an unchanged driver lineup with team-boss Jim Manolios joined by long-time friend and former F1-driver Ivan Capelli, Supercar race winner Dean Canto, and Trofeo Motorsport’s Ryan Millier – himself a race winning GT driver – but for 2019 they’ve been faced with a change to the event and driver regulations, forcing a last-minute adjustment to enlist the experienced Ben Porter.
“We were looking to carry through with our program from the last two years completely unchanged,” Jim Manolios explained. “It’s a strategy that has worked very well for us, with two top ten finishes in an unmarked car over both years we’ve campaigned the Huracan.
“Sadly a late change to the FIA driver rankings saw us facing a problem with our Pro-Am lineup with Ryan classified as Silver, so we’ve had to relegate him to calling the shots from the garage, which has given us an opportunity to bring Ben into the team.”
Porter is no stranger to Bathurst, and no stranger to the Lamborghini, having driven the Huracan GT3 in Blancpain GT Series Asia during season 2018 alongside car owner Andrew MacPherson, the pair finishing second in the Am category after a string of podium finishes across the 12-race program.
For Porter, he will return to the 12 Hour for the first time since 2014, although he hasn’t been without laps of Mount Panorama, having regularly contested the 6-Hour events over Easter.
“Who doesn’t love Bathurst,” Porter admitted. “It’s one of the world’s greatest circuits and a thrill to drive around any opportunity you get, and to be in a car that Canto has proven is every bit as quick as the top guys in the class means that you’re in for a very rewarding weekend.”
Despite the disappointment of not having Millier in the car, Jim Manolios admitted that there was a positive for the team to take from his departure from driving.
“Part of Ryan’s role within the team is to prepare the car, and alongside James Spengler they’re an integral part of the Trofeo Motorsport operation, so to have him dedicated to working with the drivers and the engineers to prepare and maintain the car, will actually give us a greater edge, despite the fact we lose his skills behind the wheel.
“I’ve raced against Ben before, and he proved to be quick in the Huracan this year in Asia, so I think he’ll fit in very well.
“Canto was amongst the fastest drivers at Challenge Bathurst last year, and he’s a sensation around the mountain, so he will be the pace-setter, but it’s clear from the Adelaide Motor Festival at the end of last year that Ivan is still very fast, so we’re looking forward to challenging again for a return to the Pro-Am podium.”
2019 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour
Mount Panorama, Bathurst, New South Wales
(1-3 February, 2018)
Schedule: (time – AEDST, GMT+11)
Friday, 1 February
09:25am – Practice#2 (60-minutes)
11:10am – Practice#3 (60-minutes)
03:15pm – Practice#4 (60-minutes)
Saturday, 2 February
08:35am – Practice#5 (60-minutes)
11:20am – Qualifying#1 (45-minutes)
12:10pm – Qualifying#2 (30-minutes) – Class A only
04:40pm – Top 10 Shootout (45-minutes)
Sunday, 3 February
5:45am – RACE (12-hours)