- No.24 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 finishes eighth overall and fourth in class despite setback at Bathurst 12 Hour
- Frustrating day for No.23 Nissan at Mount Panorama
BATHURST, Australia – It was a day of high emotion and high drama for the Nissan Motorsport team during the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour at Mount Panorama today.
After a weekend of turbulence for the No.24 Nissan Genuine Oils GT-R NISMO GT3, drivers Jann Mardenborough, Todd Kelly and Florian Strauss were amongst the front runners for more than half of the race, leading the event at different times.
The performance came after the car was heavily damaged in an accident in Friday practice and the team worked through the night to repair the car in time for Saturday qualifying.
The team's great work came unstuck when the car became stuck in fourth gear with five hours remaining. It took the crew three laps to rectify the problem, eventually returning to the circuit in 10th place.
The No.24 car demonstrated stunning speed towards the end of the race with former Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough at the wheel. The Welshman set the No.24's fastest lap of the race on his penultimate lap – a time of 2:03.309, the third fastest lap of the race.
He also set the fastest first sector of any car in the field on the final lap.
The No.23 GT-R had a frustrating day when a broken floor and transmission issue halted the car's progress in the opening hour. Alex Buncombe started the race and quickly charged into the top 10 before the initial problems struck.
Katsumasa Chiyo was at the wheel in his first stint when the car went back into the garage for repairs. Australian Supercars driver Michael Caruso wasn't able to get any race laps until the car's return to the track with just under five hours remaining.
Despite an extended stay in the pits, the No.23 completed 174 laps and be classified 32nd overall and eighth in class.
BATHURST DRIVER QUOTES
"It was pretty tough for me at the start of the race with not many practice laps and about three quarters of those laps were in traffic so you couldn't really get a feel for the car.
"It is actually good the first bit of the stint – you settle in – and within five or six laps you probably learn more than 20 laps in practice.
"I got through those first few laps in the stint without sticking it in and I got more and more confident with it.
"To be honest I drove the whole race at about 8/10ths and didn't really push the car. It had enough speed available to go a bit quicker than Jann showed at the end of the race.
"It's not very often you get presented with a car like that which can win a race. It is frustrating. I was pretty comfortable in the lead with a lot of good guys behind me and was quite happy to stay there without too much pressure behind me.
"It showed at the end at the end of the race; we had the pace. We should have easily been on the podium and I hate to think where we would have finished if we didn't have that drama."
"I wanted to put a bit of a mark in the sand at the end; I did enjoy passing the Ferrari that was leading the race at the end.
"It goes to show that if we didn't have that actuator issue with the gearbox we would have been on the podium for sure.
"A small part in the gearbox got a bit dirty and clogged up and we couldn't change gear. That cost us three laps, and we ended up two laps down because I passed the Ferrari at the end.
"It is a bit annoying, but this track is awesome. It is so good and I was having so much fun in the last few laps when I was going flat out.
"I was going quicker again on my last lap but the last corner somebody had gone off and it was all dirty and I didn't want to go skating across the dirt and get into the wall.
"My voice is completely gone. It was a proper workout in the car in the heat but I really enjoyed it. Thank you to NISMO and Nissan Australia for the chance to have a go at this awesome track."
"The mountain has been very kind to us the past two years. This year has been more difficult, but half way through the race our car was leading and we were hoping for a good finish.
"But that's how it goes sometimes in motorsport: The cars are not bulletproof and unfortunately we had a little technical issue we had to fix that cost us three laps.
"The guys did an amazing job to find the problem and find a solution very quickly.
"But if you are out of the lead lap here your race is really over. It is hard to get a lap back here, but it is almost impossible to get three back.
"Unfortunately we finished eighth this time and fourth in class. For our weekend it wasn't a bad result but if you have finished first and second in the past two years it is not much to celebrate.
"But Jann and Michael showed at the end the cars are still strong so with a bit more luck we'll fight back next year."
"Today wasn't our day. Both cars had mechanical issues. We had a big problem with an aero vibration and the gearbox.
"After I started my stint we had to stop and spend a long time in the garage. I couldn't show a good race for the fans in Australia.
"It was a shame. That's racing, but I hope we can come back stronger again next year.
"Thanks to the whole team for working so hard all weekend. It was a very tough event for them. They never gave up and I am very proud to work with them and I hope we can do it again."
"It was not the end result that we were after, but we proved the cars were really fast and our race pace was up there with the leaders.
"To have the issue that we did so early in the race we couldn't show our pace for the rest of the race.
"I feel really gutted for the guys. They have done a great job with the car. The set-up has been awesome all week.
"Both cars have had a fair bit of damage and it would have been awesome to get a result for all their hard work.
"It has been a great weekend and I hope to come back next year fighting."
"It was great to be out there at the end and have the opportunity to get some more laps and experience on board the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
"It is a beast of a car, and the pace at the end showed that had it been another day and we had a bit more luck go our way, we could have been there.
"The biggest takeaway for me from the weekend is the experience – my fist 12 hour and my first big international event like this.
"It was my first time driving with the NISMO factory team. Everyone in this team has done a brilliant job and I am very proud of their determination to work hard, press on and get us out there.
"It is good that were classified as a finisher and that shows how the hard work ends."
Team Boss Neville Proud of Nissan Crew's Fighting Spirit
Nissan's assault on the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour brought together an international crew featuring Australia's Nissan Motorsport Supercars squad, the Bob Neville-run RJN Motorsport from Europe as well as key team members from NISMO in Japan.
Despite never having worked together as team previously, the international combination worked seamlessly despite facing some huge set backs.
"Considering a lot of these had never even met before, let alone worked with each other, the way everybody worked together was quite remarkable," said Neville.
The Nissan Blancpain GT Series boss was impressed with the speed and determination of the Bathurst 12 Hour assault, but rued the misfortunes, which eliminated their chances of success.
"The No.24 car crashed in practice and it was a massive battle to get it back together, but we made it happen," said Neville. "For the whole 12 hours I was really waiting for something to happen that was the result of the accident. But that wasn't the case and it was going beautifully – just a small gearbox issue totally unrelated to the Friday crash that cost us three laps. Looking back at the weekend, I'm obviously very disappointed for the No.23 guys. We had a couple of problems that we just couldn't get to the bottom of which was very frustrating. When we did get to the bottom of it the car was fine which almost makes it worse. I'm pleased to hear it was classified as a race finisher but it had the potential – as we saw with No.24 – to do really well. Car 24 really could have been on the podium. There was one small issue with the gearshift, which let us down. It is fair to say we were battling for the lead in this race."
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