Bentley Team M-Sport won the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour after Jules Gounon, at the wheel of the #7 Bentley Continental GT3 he shared with Maxime Soulet and Jordan Pepper, took the chequered flag 37.795 seconds ahead of the #999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 piloted by Felipe Fraga, Maxi Buhk and, driving the final stint, Rafaelle Marciello.
A post-race penalty for the #999 Mercedes, however, meant that the #60 59Racing / EMA Racing McLaren 720S GT3, crewed by Alvaro Parente, Ben Barnicoat and Tom Blomqvist, was promoted to second.
The final podium position, after the application of the penalty, was taken by the #888 Mercedes-AMG team Triple Eight Race Engineering Mercedes, driven by Jamie Whincup, Shane van Gisbergen and Maximilian Goetz.
The final hour brought drama for Jules Gounon in the #7 Bentley after a puncture demanded a return to the pits for a tyre change. However, with the puncture towards the end of the lap and quick work by the pit crew due to a less fuel being required, Gounon managed to rejoin ahead of the Rafaelle Marciello in the #999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Shane van Gisbergen, driving the #888 Mercedes, led on track with 56 minutes remaining but, with a pit stop required for fuel, it was Gounon in the #7 Bentley who had the advantage.
Van Gisbergen then brought the #888 Mercedes in for fuel and a right-hand tyre, rejoining in sixth place. As a result, Gounon in the #7 Bentley then led Rafaelle Marciello in the #999 Mercedes by 6.5 seconds with Maro Engel in #77 Mercedes in third. The weather was threatening to present some challenges with winds picking up and rain possible in the final 30 minutes.
Engel in the #77 Mercedes had to stop for a single tyre change with 25 minutes remaining, promoting Tom Blomqvist in the #60 59Racing / EMA Racing McLaren 720S GT3 into the final podium position.
Rain started falling as the race approached the final ten minutes but teams made the decision to stay on slicks with five laps to go. There was huge disappointment for Mercedes-AMG team GruppeM Racing when Marciello had to pit with a right-rear puncture. The Italian driver rejoined in third, promoting the #60 McLaren into second.
Marciello’s stop, however, was being investigated for not turning the engine off and this was to have implications post-race.
As it was, Gounon took the chequered nearly 38 seconds ahead of Marciello with Tom Blomqvist in the #60 McLaren in third, just under four seconds behind the Italian driver.
“I have no words, honestly,” said Jordan Pepper. “The rain gods held off and that was ours to win! The boys put in an amazing effort all the weekend. It was tough for them, a difficult Friday, a difficult Saturday with the other car and I’m glad we turned things around and give them the win.”
“I can’t believe it!” said teammate Maxime Soulet. “Jordan, Jules..all three of us did an amazing job. It was ‘push’ the whole way through and we’ve got luck with us – the rain is starting now so super happy!”
Class honours in the Silver Cup category went to the #59 59Racing McLaren 720S GT3 driven by Dominic Storey, Fraser Ross and Martin Kodric, the team finishing eighth overall.
The Pro-Am Cup category was won by the #4 Grove Racing Porsche 911 GT3 piloted by Stephen Grove, Brenton Grove and Ben Barker.
The second round of the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge takes place at Spa-Francorchamps on July 23 – 26.