Bentley claims Bathurst 12 Hour win

Laine Clark

Predicted storms did not eventuate but Bentley finally brought the thunder to the Bathurst 12 Hour on Sunday.

The British manufacturer ended years of frustration at Mount Panorama with a dominant victory, finishing almost 38 seconds ahead of their nearest rival while completing a record 314 laps.

After everything from errant kangaroos to electrical failures had cut the initial 39-strong field down to 23 in the final hours, thunderstorms forecast for the Intercontinental GT Challenge's opening round looked set to provide yet another late twist.

While heavy rain did not hit the track until after the chequered flag dropped, Bentley lived up to their team motto "Bring the Thunder" by claiming line honours thanks to drivers Jules Gounon, Maxime Soulet and Jordan Pepper under dark skies.

Gounon could hardly believe he had steered Bentley home for their first Bathurst 12 Hour victory since they first had a crack at the notorious street circuit in 2015.

Bentley had missed the podium on debut five years ago with only a third placing in 2016 and 2017 to show for their efforts until their famous win on Sunday, which coincided with the heavens opening.

"I saw the clouds. Every weekend we are like "Bring the Thunder' but I was like 'not now, keep it dry'," Gounon laughed.

"This is huge for Bentley. We have only had bad luck (until now at Mount Panorama)."

Bentley emerged triumphant after starting from 11th on the grid - the lowest position for a race winning car in the Bathurst 12 Hour's 18 editions.

Yet despite leading for the majority of the race, Bentley's poor fortune on the mountain reared its head again when they blew a tyre on Conrod Straight with just over an hour left in the race.

However, Gounon was able to pit immediately and lost minimal time to seal a historic Bentley victory.

Instead the hard luck story on Sunday went to Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing.

Their outfit - featuring drivers Felipe Fraga, Maximilian Buhk and Raffaele Marciello - finished second across the line but were sensationally hit with a 30 second post-race pitlane penalty and dumped to sixth spot.

That elevated McLaren's 59 Racing-EMA Racing's Alvaro Parente, Ben Barnicoat and Tom Blomqvist to second.

Mercedes-AMG Team Triple Eight Race Engineering outfit of Maximilian Gotz and Supercars stars Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup completed the podium at third as a result.

Defending champion and pole sitter, Australia's Matt Campbell, was elevated to fourth with Porsche co-drivers Mathieu Jaminet and Patrick Pilet after a remarkable fightback.

They dropped off the lead lap at one point due to a puncture and also copped a 15-second penalty for a pit stop infringement before roaring back through the field, finishing the race duelling with van Gisbergen.

Reigning champion team Earl Bamber Motorsport Porsche - featuring drivers Craig Lowndes, Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor - finished ninth after going two laps down due to a brake failure in the seventh hour.

Class winners were Racing Porsche drivers Stephen Grove, Brenton Grove and Ben Barker (Pro Am), 59 Racing's Dominic Storey, Martin Kodricand Fraser Ross (Silver), SCANDIA Racing's Marc II's Aaron Cameron, Broc Feeney and Nick Percat (Invitational) and BMW's Darren Jorgensen, Brett Strom and Danny van Dongen (GT4).

Overall 43,111 fans attended.