THOUSANDS of fans have braved inclement conditions to welcome the LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour field via the annual Town to Track parade through Bathurst today.
The entire 12-hour field drove from Mount Panorama to the centre of Bathurst and despite wet conditions, were welcomed by a host of fans both lining the route and lining for autographs from the stars of the show in Russell Street.
For the first time more than 400 flags were handed to the two schools along the route, students enthusiastically taking time from their studies to welcome the field to the city as they drove past.
The rain cleared while the cars were parked in town with a large crowd of local fans welcoming the field and checking out some of the fastest GT3 cars in the world up close and personal.
“It’s great to see so many people lining the street and here in town to say G’day,” two-time Bathurst 12 Hour winner Craig Lowndes said.
Lowndes will race a Porsche GT3 Cup Car in support of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia this weekend, raising funds and awareness for the important cause.
“There’s a lot of anticipation for the event to be back and the fact so many people braved the weather to come out today is a great sign for the rest of the weekend when the weather will be better.
“We’re looking forward to a great weekend, raising awareness and funds for a great cause, but also having a really good time as well. I can’t wait!”
German Mercedes-AMG ace Maro Engel is one of a host of high-profile international stars joining the field this year, ensuring the race lives up to its ‘Australia’s International Enduro’ tag.
Driving for the Hong Kong-based Craft-Bamboo Racing, Engel is a former Bathurst 12 Hour polesitter and finished fifth in the 2020 race – the last time the event was held.
“It’s so good to be back here and be welcomed as always by the people of Bathurst,” Engel said.
“It’s always good to come back here, Mount Panorama is one of the best tracks in the world and the race has grown to become one of the best GT races around. It’s one all the drivers want to win.
“It’s a super strong field this year and there are lots of potential winners, so even though it’s a different looking race this year, it’s always tough to win at Bathurst and this year will be no different.”
Bathurstian Brad Schumacher steps into the factory Audi Sport Team Valvoline entry this weekend, driving alongside international aces Nathanael Berthon and Kelvin van der Linde.
Schumacher, who lives on Mount Panorama and regularly races his own privateer Kelso Electrical Audi R8, said he was enjoying the opportunity to drive for the best team in the sport – at what is literally his home circuit.
“It’s always special to race here in your hometown, and to do it for the best team in the sport is even better,” he said.
“We’re really excited about the weekend, these guys (Audi Sport) prepare a really good car and it’s going to be good to work with the guys I’m driving with. They’re the best in the business.
“It’s just great to have the event back in Bathurst and come here with a chance of competing at an outright level.”
The LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour field bursts into life tomorrow with four practice sessions on Friday.
The program will include one session held in the evening to give the field their first taste of night time running in anticipation of more than 90-minutes of racing on Sunday morning before sunrise.