I’ve just come back from my fourth trip to Australia. I’ve been twice to the Gold Coast to race in Aussie V8s and once with McLaren to drive the two-seater F1 car at the Melbourne Grand Prix, but this trip to Bathurst tops them all. The Bathurst 12 Hours is an incredible event: the circuit, the fans, and the organisation, all of it!
The circuit itself didn’t disappoint and now I fully understand why it is on the bucket list of so many racing drivers. It has everything, from massively challenging sections to corners that you just don’t find anywhere else. You can see from the attrition in the race what an unforgiving circuit it is. The slightest mistake can have huge consequences, as you don’t bounce when you hit those walls. Mount Panorama is a circuit that you have to respect or it will bite you, as a couple of drivers found out via a few broken ribs during the weekend.
The Australians sure know how to run a race weekend. They have found that perfect balance between enjoyment for the drivers, enjoyment for the fans and making sure the racing is of a high level. I noticed this when I did the Aussie V8 races. Take the pre-race briefing, for example. The message is that we are all there to put on a good show and there is a lot of mutual respect between the drivers and officials. It’s a different vibe to what we have in Europe and it’s very refreshing. It’s not all about rules and regulations, it’s about the sporting side of things.
Bathurst was a fantastic experience and, to be there with R-Motorsport in the Aston Martin Vantage GT8 was a great privilege. The GT8 is actually a road car so to finish so strongly at an event like Bathurst is an incredible achievement. I knew we had a good car as I raced it in the Nürburgring 24 Hours last year, but for it to prove itself both on the Nordschleife and Mount Panorama is impressive. We didn’t have any technical issues during the race, just a few punctures, so the GT8 is clearly strong.
One of the fun things about being in the invitational class is that you are not involved in the main GT3 fight, but you have the best seat in the house to watch the action. I was out on the circuit in the middle of a few intense GT3 battles. At one point I had eight or nine come past in one go and I loved it as I got to see everyone going at it hammer and tongs from such a close range.
Now that I’ve done it I’ve got the bug and want to do it again. It was just one of those events that is great fun for everyone involved.
We’re now busy preparing for the season ahead. I’m sharing the no97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE with Jonny Adam this year. We’ve been team-mates on numerous occasions and he’s one of those guys who are easy to get along with; a great team player, a hard worker and he’s fast. We work well together and we have every chance to be competitive this year, as we showed at the last race in Bahrain last year. The Vantage GTE has been one of the most successful cars in the WEC over the years so we should be racing at the front in 2017.
So that’s it from me. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these columns over the last 12
months. If you haven’t, I’m sorry, as you haven’t heard the last of me yet! I’ll be popping up on other Motor Sport pages in future. Until then, cheerio!