Nissan took a dramatic last-gasp victory in the Bathurst 12 Hours after Katsumasa Chiyo passed two cars on the penultimate lap to take the spoils in the GT3 long-distance race.
Chiyo was trailing the M-Sport Bentley of Matt Bell and the Audi of Laurens Vanthoor with just two laps to go, but passed both of them to give himself and team-mates Florian Strauss and Wolfgang Reip victory Down Under.
Strauss was only added to the line-up last week, with Britain’s Alex Buncombe unable to drive in the event after attending the birth of his son, Austin. But Strauss proved to be a more than capable replacement, and in a race that was blighted by incidents and safety car periods – 20 in all – the GT-R Nismo came out on top.
Unfortunately, the first safety car of the race came when the No 42 BMW E46 M3 GTR hit a kangaroo and ploughed into the barriers as a result. It’s not the first time that a kangaroo has been hit on the Mount Panorama circuit, and probably won’t be the last, but it was enough to rule Anthony Gilbertson, Jason Clements and Karl Begg out of the race with considerable front-end damage.
The podium was completed by the Audi of Vanthoor, Markus Winklehock and Marco Mapelli, and the Aston Martin of Stefan Mucke, Alex MacDowell and Darryl O’Young, who both passed the M-Sport Bentley at the final corner in a frantic finish to rob Bell, Guy Smith and Steven Kane of a rostrum finish.
The victory is another landmark occasion for Nissan’s GT Academy programme, with both Reip and Strauss graduates of the scheme that takes the best Playstation racers and gives them a chance to make their mark on the track.
FERRARI SET THE PACE IN JEREZ
Rather surprisingly, it was Ferrari who topped the timesheets in the first 2015 pre-season test at the Spanish circuit of Jerez. Both Kimi Raikkonen and new driver Sebastian Vettel set the pace over the four-day test, though Sauber’s Christian Ericsson was able to outpace them in Tuesday.
Raikkonen set the fast lap time of the week on the final day as he beat his team-mates best lap time by a tenth of a second, although Vettel’s flying lap was registered on a set of medium tyres while the Finn recorded his best time during a run on the softer tyres that Pirelli tested out.
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton showed glimpses of the pace that the Mercedes W06 will bring this year, although both he and Nico Rosberg were slightly hindered by reliability woes throughout the four-day event. That said, Rosberg’s 157 laps completed on the opening day certainly caught the eye, and it’ll be a tough ask even for Ferrari to upset the current running order in F1 and challenge last year’s constructors’ champions.
PORSCHE CONFIRM BAMBER AND TANDY TO PARTNER HULKENBERG AT LE MANS
Porsche have announced that New Zealand’s Earl Bamber and Britain’s Nick Tandy will complete their Le Mans 24 Hours driver line-up after being given the vacant drives in their third LMP1 919 Hybrid alongside F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg confirmed at the end of 2014 that he will combine his Force India commitments with a Le Mans driver for the German manufacturers, while both Bamber and Tandy step up from their role as GT drivers with Porsche.
While Tandy has been with Porsche for two year, testing the 919 on three occasions, Bamber was only announced as a factory driver in December, but impressed at the Abu Dhabi test and has been rewarded with the drive ahead of Frederic Makowiecki.
MARTIN ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT DATE
Isle of Man TT favourite and TV personality Guy Martin has revealed that he will retire from road racing at the end of the season. in an interview with The Times, the 33-year-old confirmed that he will call it a day at the end of 2015 in order to return to his day job as a truck mechanic, in which he makes "£12 an hour and double pay on Saturday's".
Martin has secured 18 podiums at the TT during his career, but an elusive first win is yet to come around the Mountain Course and the Tyco Tas BMW rider will have one last chance to secure victory at the event in the summer.