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Analysing the Bathurst 12 Hours

Paul Truswell Tries to Make Sense of the Numbers

To be able to witness the Bathurst 12 hours at first hand was a privilege indeed. The circuit is iconic, quite simply astonishing, and ranks right up there amongst the great motor-racing venues of the world. This year’s Liqui-Moly sponsored event attracted twice as many entrants as last year’s race, and a healthy crowd of spectators were also present. It was good to see a good number of varied support races as well – the 12 hour race was actually the eleventh race on the weekend schedule, keeping the spectators that were there for the whole weekend well-entertained. It would certainly seem as though this is an event that is breaking into the consciousness of competitors, media and spectators; not just in Australia, but in the rest of the world too.

It was not really a surprise, but nevertheless disappointing, that so many safety car periods punctuated the racing. There were fifteen caution periods over the course of the twelve hours, accounting for very nearly four hours of neutralised race-track.

The details are in the table below:

Bathurst 12 Hours - Safety Car
Incident No
Reason
From
To
Time
1
Accident nos. 38 and 68
07:19:33
07:40:40
21m 07s
2
Accident Conrod Straight
07:43:02
08:03:59
20m 57s
3
Accident BMW #16
08:53:23
09:16:48
23m 25s
4
Car 56 off track
10:06:59
10:24:28
17m 29s
5
Car 65 off track
10:40:13
10:49:36
9m 23s
6
Car off at Mountain
11:13:21
11:22:49
9m 28s
7
Car 88 off Skyline
12:35:43
12:50:16
14m 33s
8
Car 67 off at Elbow
12:54:09
13:04:32
10m 23s
9
Car 7 off on Mountain
14:04:47
14:18:26
13m 39s
10
Car 9 stopped at Dipper
14:22:39
14:47:03
24m 24s
11
Car 65 stopped
15:14:56
15:29:06
14m 10s
12
Car 12 off at Elbow
16:31:25
16:43:27
12m 02s
13
Car 60 stopped
17:10:09
17:25:11
15m 02s
14
Car 13 off track
17:27:36
17:46:57
19m 21s
15
Car 60 crash
17:48:05
18:00:03
11m 58s

The race organisers count the number of “safety car laps”, which I do not show above, as it leads to something of an anomaly. They do this by taking the number of times the (single) safety car crosses the start-finish line, which happened 43 times. Due to the fact that it joins the circuit at the pit lane exit, and also as it waves cars past (sometimes including the leader), then the number of laps that cars complete “under caution” is considerably more than the count given in the official results (my log counted 55).

The Ferraris were, without doubt, the quickest cars over a single lap. Allan Simonsen rather spoiled the chances of the Maranello (#88, entered by Il Bello Rosso) car by inheriting a 50kg weight penalty following his 2m 05.491s lap time in qualifying. But the #33 Clearwater entry of Mok Weng Sun, Matt Griffin and Craig Baird was the fastest car throughout the race (except when Bernd Schneider was in the Mercedes). Its chances of victory appeared to be spoiled by the Safety Car, which in both its third and fourth appearances, contrived to wave the leading cars (from Mercedes, Audi and Porsche) past and pick up the AF Corse Ferrari.

By my calculations, this cost it 30s in overall terms the first time it happened: however at the next Safety Car, having passed the AF Corse car, Mok Weng Sun could gain all of that time (and more) back again. Here’s the evidence:

On lap 38 (before the third Safety Car) #33 was 1m 20.2s behind the race-leading Mercedes #63.

On lap 47 (after the third Safety Car) #33 was 1m 56.2s behind the race-leading Mercedes #63.

On lap 80 (before the fourth Safety Car) #33 was 2m 01.5s behind the race-leading Mercedes #36.

On lap 85 (after the fourth Safety Car) #33 was 42.6s behind the race-leading Mercedes #36.

More of an impact on the Clearwater car were the three drive-through penalties that were served on it. One of these was for the ‘avoidable contact’, when Weng Sun lost control at Murray’s and struck another car; the other two were for overlapping on the re-start at the end of safety car periods. Altogether, it cost the car something like a minute and a half. Not enough for it to recover the lap that it lost sorting out the splitter problem that cost it the race, but something for Matt Griffin, Craig Baird and Mok Weng Sun to reflect upon as they stood on the second step of the podium.

On the subject of penalties, I found it most odd that both the first and second placed cars (the Schneider/Roloff/Jäger Erebus Mercedes and the Clearwater Ferrari) were also penalised thirty seconds for jumping the start. In the end, it made no difference (contrary to the report in Autosport the margin of victory was not six seconds, but a lap and six seconds).

What made the difference in the end was the efficiency of Erebus Motorsport, who were able to keep their #36 Mercedes out of trouble on the track and turn it round quickly in the pit stops. Here is the all-important Time Spent in Pits table:

Bathurst 12 Hours - Time Spent in Pits
Car No.
Team
No. of stops
Total time in pits
Drive-through penalties
36
Erebus Mercedes
13
16m 59.14s
0
33
Clearwater Ferrari
17
21m 48.15s
3
5
VIP Petfoods Porsche
12
20m 51.68s
0
1
Phoenix Audi
16
32m 21.48s
3

Finally, the driving sequence and Average Lap Time analysis. Note that in these lists, the driving time is taken from the “time out of pits” to the “time into pits” for an individual driver. The organisers issued a “Driver Report”, which showed the driving time including the time spent in the pits, which in some cases shows drivers exceeding their driving time limit of 4½ hours.

To establish the "Average Green lap time" I exclude laps behind the safety car, and also laps into and out of the pits. Somewhat arbitrarily, I have also excluded laps when the track was wet, although sometimes, obviously, drivers ability to lap quickly in the wet has a significant impact.

Erebus Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG #36
Driver
Driving Time
No. of laps
Average Green lap time
Alexander Roloff
4h 01m 17s
93
2m 11.434s
Thomas Jäger
4h 00m 33s
91
2m 11.195s
Bernd Schneider
3h 52m 11s
84
2m 09.694s

Clearwater Ferrari 458 #33
Driver
Driving Time
No. of laps
Average Green lap time
Craig Baird
4h 27m 44s
98
2m 09.952s
Mok Weng Sun
3h 08m 41s
66
2m 15.496s
Matt Griffin
4h 16m 01s
103
2m 10.847s

VIP Pet Foods Porsche GT3-R#5
Driver
Driving Time
No. of laps
Average Green lap time
Klark Quinn
4h 22m 59s
95
2m 12.275s
Shane Van Gisbergen
4h 10m 12s
90
2m 12.613s
Matthew Kingsley
3h 21m 28s
82
2m 15.509s

Phoenix Audi R8 #1
Driver
Driving Time
No. of laps
Average Green lap time
Harold Primat
2h 57m 19s
61
2m 13.346s
Andreas Simonsen
4h 20m 40s
106
2m 11.251s
Johan Kristoffersson
4h 24m 09s
99
2m 11.915s

The most interesting thing I find here is that Harold Primat somehow failed to really get on the pace of the other drivers in the Phoenix Audi, surprising for an FIA Gold standard driver. The heroes? For my money, Schneider and Baird; although one wonders what Allan Simonsen might have achieved, had things turned out differently.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable event. It was a pity that the weather broke at the end of the race; there was enough interest without the added drama of the violent rainstorm in the last hour. Without it, we almost certainly would have had an Erebus Mercedes 1-2. We also would probably have had the 1Cover Lotus Elise of Simon Phillips, Peter Storey and Ben Gower take a well-deserved victory in class I1, ahead of the two works Peugeot RCZ’s.