Mount Panorama has already claimed several cars in the opening three hours of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
A frenetic start to the race saw the front row runners go three-wide into Hell Corner under darkness. GruppeM driver Maximilian Buhk made the biggest move at the start, sliding down the inside to take the lead in the no. 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
As the sun began to rise over The Mountain, 59Racing driver Ben Barnicoat in the no. 60 McLaren 720S GT3 surged forward to challenge Buhk for the lead.
Despite being less than an hour into the race, Buhk defended hard into The Chase and Barnicoat brushed the rear bumper as he came through.
With one hour done, Barnicoat led Buhk. Third was another fast starter Alexandre Imperatori for KCMG in their Nissan GT-R GT3. Pole position winner Patrick Pilet in the no. 911 Porsche 911 GT3 R fell back to fourth while Luca Stolz of Craft-Bamboo Black Falcon was fifth in another Mercedes-AMG.
Australian-based New Zealander Daniel Jilesen crashed at The Cutting after he got loose driving the MARC II Mustang. He returned to the pit lane but carried heavy damage. The MARC cars were in the wars. Just after the first hour was completed another went up in flames during a pit stop.
Côme Ledogar was the first GT3 driver to fall victim in the early stages of the race. He crashed the no. 188 R-Motorsport Aston Martin. The incident began at Skyline when he got loose, gathered a lot of inside kerb, and then clobbered the tyre barrier before slamming the adjacent outside wall.
The Safety Car was duly deployed and brought back out not long after the race went green when the Wall Racing no. 6 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Julian Westwood slapped the wall on the approach to The Dipper.
Perhaps the biggest and most notable incident saw Team Valvoline driver Garth Tander crash heavily at the top of McPhillamy Park.
The incident kicked off with the sister no. 2 Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Frederic Vervisch who slowed over the brow. Then the no. 22 of Tander came through and gathered the inside kerb and began to lose the rear end. He spun down the inside of the no. 2 and then flicked right across the nose and speared across the gravel trap, into the tyre barrier at high speed.
After three hours it’s a Mercedes-AMG GT3 one-two. The no. 999 leads with Frag/Buhk/Marciello ahead of the no. 77 of Engel/Stolz/Buurman.
Early race leaders Barnicoat/Blomqvist/Parent sits third in the no. 60 ahead of the no. 7 Bentley Team M-Sport entry of Gounon/Jarvis/Morris. The top five is completed by the no. 911 driven by pole position winner Campbell/Jaminet/Pilet.
Shane van Gisbergen remains in contention with Triple Eight Race Engineering. He’s sharing a Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Maximilian Götz and Jamie Whincup. After three hours they sit seventh overall.
Immediately behind them sits the no. 1 Porsche 911 GT3-R of Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Craig Lowndes.
Dom Storey sits 14th overall and second in Silver. He’s sharing the 59Racing-run McLaren 720S GT3 with Fraser Ross and Martin Kodric.
Scott Dixon sits 16th for R-Motorsport in the sole remaining Aston Martin Vantage GT3. He’s sharing the no. 76 with former Supercars champion Rick Kelly and Jake Dennis.
Jaxon Evans, Romain Rumas and David Calvert-Jones sit 20th overall and second in Pro/Am.