GT
Wednesday, Feb 7 07:28pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

How Dan Gaunt began the Bathurst 12 Hour in an Audi but won in a Porsche

There are few stories from this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour more that are bizarre than that of Dan Gaunt’s Class B victory.


This year’s race will be remembered for the crashfest that eventually saw the race ended under red flag conditions with 20 minutes to go, and it was one of the earliest crashes that made Gaunt’s day a little more interesting.


Gaunt had been driving the Audi Sport backed R8 LMS GT3 alongside Australians Ash Samadi and Dylan O’Keeffe all throughout Friday and Saturday’s running. Gaunt qualified the car in 20th, which put them second in class.


Unfortunately, Samadi was one of those drivers caught out in the early race melee.


Gaunt’s race still had nine hours and 11 minutes to go when his teammate slammed the wall at Hell Corner. Gaunt had yet to even drive the car in the race.


“We were trucking along okay, we were second in class and had a relatively straightforward strategy,” Gaunt told velocitynews.co.nz.


“Ash had just got in and there was a lengthy safety car. He said he got a soft peddle and hit the outside wall. That put us out. We were done quite early in the day.”


Gaunt’s day was done, so he thought. Like the rest of the Audi drivers who had been knocked out of the race he hightailed it to the top of pit lane rooftop.


“I went up stairs to the Audi hospitality and I was very close to getting a beer out of the fridge at 10am in the morning. But I thought ‘you know what, I’ll wait until lunch’.


“Then about half an hour later the Groves came down and asked would I be interested, – if they could get it past the stewards – whether I could race for them because Brenton (Grove) wasn’t feeling well.


“He had had a few dramas and was throwing up in the car and ended up almost checking out. He hit the medical car while it was going to pick someone up during a safety car. He was really not in good shape.


“I said ‘yeah if we could get it through then I’m keen’. About half an hour later they made a decision and I was allowed to race.”


Under the event rules teams are allowed to run a maximum of four drivers and a minimum of three. With Brenton Grove out of the race they were down to two drivers with Stephen Grove and England’s Ben Barker


The race officials decided the team were allowed to put Gaunt into effectively the fourth seat.


Everything a part from the morning’s crash was on Gaunt’s side. He’d had plenty of laps around the circuit, had attended all of the briefings and was experienced at The Mountain too.


“The Grove car was in a position where they couldn’t finish with two drivers. It was either pull out at the ninth hour or shuffle a fourth driver in there.


“Common sense prevailed. I’ve got to thank the stewards, they made a call pretty quickly and signed it off, which was great.”


Photo: Grove Racing

The team were given a one-minute stop-and-go penalty after Grove hit the medical car while he was feeling unwell.


The ordeal put them a lap down behind their Class B rivals. Fortunately the other main contenders for the win got knocked out almost exactly an hour after Samadi crashed.


Despite the penalty they were back in contention and in within reach of the class lead.


However, with Gaunt out of the Audi R8 LM and into an unknown Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, he had to quickly familiarise himself with the new setup.


“I’ve raced a Cup car at Bathurst before. The whole lead in has been GT3 driving. You’re seven seconds a lap faster in the Audi. It did take a little bit to get used to.


“I jumped in. All the buttons are obviously different. The whole cockpit is completely different. I didn’t get an opportunity to sit in the car before I needed to drive it. It literally came in for a pit stop, I was standing in pit lane, jumped in, and they said ‘look, we’ve got an extra button on the dash, the fuel reset, we need you to do that. We have a cool suit so you can put that on.’


“When I jumped in I didn’t know where everything was, like where they’d mounted all the extra bolt on stuff. It was a little long. We just took our time.”


Gaunt exited the pit lane with the track to his surprise all to himself. He was happy to have all the space around him without dealing with the faster GT3 cars to take some time to get back into the groove.


However, a safety car struck almost as soon as he’d gotten back on track and was quickly being chased by the faster GT3 cars.


“I thought, ‘this is great, it’s going to work out’, but the safety car came out literally at the end of that lap. I was fourth in queue and a few laps down with 40-odd cars behind me at the restart. I was begging to go through pit lane to go to the back of the queue.


“I only needed a handful of laps to get confident.”


Gaunt promptly got out of the way of the cars behind him so he could find his rhythm and get a feel for the car.


The biggest challenge for Gaunt between the GT3 car and the Carrera Cup car was mostly gearing and braking points. At most parts of the circuit he was having to brake some 30 and 40 metres earlier.


The team worked hard to eventually get the win three laps ahead of their nearest rivals Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaud, and Joe Foster all from America.


“That car is always competitive there. I kinda knew that if we did everything right and put our head down we would come through and it ended up happening.


“It was a good reward, it paid off.”


Photos: Grove Racing

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