The Ford Performance GT will make its track debut on Australian soil at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, showcasing Ford Performance innovation and engineering in one of the most advanced race cars it has ever built. Driven by none-other than Australian racing driver, and full-time Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Ryan Briscoe, the Le Mans-winning Ford GT will turn its first wheel in anger at the world-famous 6.213 kilometre circuit as a prelude to this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to put this amazing race car on such an iconic circuit,” said Ford Australian and New Zealand President and CEO, Kay Hart. “Innovation through design and engineering drives Ford Performance, and where better than Bathurst to introduce the Ford Performance GT to Australians.”
The Ford Performance GT race car is the culmination of years of Ford innovation in aerodynamics, lightweight carbonfibre construction and ultra-efficient EcoBoost engines, and serves as a test bed for new technologies and advanced lightweight materials that will benefit future Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles. With its carbonfibre teardrop-shaped body climbing the Mountain, it will be the most capable vehicle wearing a Ford badge to ever lap Mount Panorama.
“To have such an iconic vehicle in the Ford GT here – a car with strong success in some of the world’s greatest races – is something Australian fans will love, and it shows how highly regarded Bathurst is globally, and by Ford and Ford Performance,” said Supercars CEO, Sean Seamer.
The Ford GT’s simultaneous road and race-car development centred around three primary goals. At its core, the program provides a working training ground for Ford’s engineers to develop future engine technology and to expand their understanding of aerodynamics. On top of this, the challenge pushed the boundaries of advanced material usage, which has resulted in its teardrop body shape with carbonfibre buttresses, not possible if made of steel.
The Ford Performance IMSA GT Number 67 will be freighted to Australia for the first time, and will see Briscoe behind the wheel as part of the Ford Performance presence at this year’s Great Race. “To have Ryan, an Aussie who has driven with us many times at Bathurst, Sandown and on the Gold Coast, is the icing on the cake.”
Briscoe is well aware of this momentous occasion, and intends to take full advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity. “The Ford GT is an ultra-high-performance car, so I’m really excited and honoured to turn the Ford GT’s first laps at Bathurst” said Ryan Briscoe, who last raced in Australia’s premier motor race in 2013. “For me, Bathurst is one of the best, if not the best racing circuit in the world.”
The challenging layout will be another to add to the Ford GT’s list of iconic tracks, which so far this season has seen Briscoe and co-driver Richard Westbrook three-time winners following victory in Canada, Road America and the 2018 Rolex 24-hour at Daytona to build their championship campaign. "We know Ryan is excited to come back home to be part of such an historic occasion,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director Ford Performance Motorsports. “He's been an integral part of our success with the Ford GT in racing, and will certainly put on a good show for the fans."
Despite the familiarity with both the Ford GT and the circuit, putting the two together for the first time means that the Mountain will provide a fresh challenge for the Australian.
“Nothing quite compares to Bathurst,” said the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing pilot. “Bathurst as a circuit demands the highest respect at all times. It has the intensity of a circuit like Indy, where its very high speed and you just always need to be 100-per cent focused,” he said. “Of all the circuits we race on, Bathurst is probably closest to Watkins Glen (New York), though, as they both have a very smooth, high-grip surface with a lot of high-speed corners.”
Mount Panorama will provide an even greater challenge than ‘The Glen’, as it’s known, with the steepest corner at the Australian track being The Cutting, with its 1-in-6 grade climb. “Watkins Glen doesn’t have near the elevation change that Mount Panorama has,” said Briscoe. “And while the downhill section of Bathurst is comparable to Laguna Seca, Laguna is a very low-grip track, so it’s different in that way.
In 2016, the GT made history with its triumphant debut at the Le Mans 24 hour, by claiming victory 50 years on from the Ford’s crushing 1-2-3 formation finish for the Ford GT40 in the 1966 race. In doing so, it achieved the primary goal of the Ford GT’s program. Fittingly, Ford’s legacy at Mount Panorama goes back to the event’s origins in the 1960s, and since then, Fords have claimed victory at Bathurst 19 times.
In 2019, Ford Performance will support the Ford Mustang’s entry into the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, which kicks off in March at the Adelaide 500.
The Ford Performance GT will be in action during the Supercars Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, held over October 3-6, 2018.
The Bathurst Regional Council has completed the purchase of an 80-acre parcel of land that will be used for a second circuit alongside Mount Panorama. The deal was made between the local council and orchardist Lee Rayner. The council will take over an 80 acre block of land east of Mount Panorama circuit. While the price of the land hasn’t been officially disclosed, it is estimated to be a $4.5 million deal. The project is expected to cost around $50 million, with the council itself to tip in $662,000 from next year’s budget. In total the council is expected to pay $10 million, with another $40 million to ultimately come from state and federal funding.
“Some of the legalities of the contract for this parcel of land are still in the throws of being sorted out, but saying that, council is confident the sale will proceed following lengthy negotiations with the owners of the land,” Bathurst mayor Gary Rush told the Western Advocate. “The price is undisclosed, but it’s 80 acres and now [this] gives council 212 acres in that precinct to move forward with the second track. I think we will look back in decades to come at the magnitude of this deal in the push to bring the second track to fruition. The $15 million in next year’s budget is the main item in the $189 million management plan. We anticipate the settlement of this land deal to occur about the same time as the budget comes into force around the end of the month."
“This is huge for Bathurst, I can’t stress that enough.”
The Nissan GT-R has taken another significant victory at Mount Panorama after scoring a dramatic victory in the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour. After a race full of drama, crashes and Safety Cars, Japanese star Katsumasa Chiyo passed two cars on the penultimate lap to secure a remarkable win for the NISMO Athlete Global Team. The victory for Chiyo and GT Academy winners Wolfgang Reip and Florian Strauss is the first time that the Nissan GT-R has won at Mount Panorama since the GT-R took back-to-back Bathurst 1000 wins in 1991 and 1992. The crowd at the top of the Mount Panorama roared as Chiyo put the Nissan into the lead, a fairytale story after the car was damaged in a qualifying crash on Saturday, with repairs to the #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 only completed at 4:30am local time on Sunday morning. Strauss was especially ecstatic to take victory, as he was a late recruit to the event when Alex Buncombe was unable to attend the event due to the birth of his first child. Strauss has only been a racing driver for 18 months following his win in GT Academy in 2013.
“It is just unbelievable because I couldn’t imagine that end of the race, with a strong Audi and Bentley and we are still in the amateur class,” said Chiyo. “The car is very good, it is very strong on the straight. I tried to imagine, it was just amazing, we couldn’t know what would happen in this race, but we just tried our best in the moment and then I had a chance in the final restart. It was just awesome. The car was amazing, and so was the team.”
“Yes it was very stressful (watching the final laps), I couldn’t keep calm,” said Reip. “It is incredible, our first win for the last two years we have been racing, so really a lot of emotions. I took the start this morning, at the beginning of the stint I was following the Audi and then I started to save the car because we knew we had to do it to reach (the window). It was pretty long, a two hour forty minute stint and then Chiyo did a three hour stint, so it was quite long, but very exciting. “My second stint went pretty well, there were a lot of safety cars but I could reach the pit in time. It was very stressful as we had a strategy and then with the Safety Cars we did not know what would happen – we didn’t really expect any more to win, but the last ten minutes was incredible. The car was very good here, it is definitely a track that suits us. It was a good race.”
“It is just awesome, still unbelievable,” said Strauss. “I am very lucky that we have won, no one can say what would you have achieved with Alex, we couldn’t have achieved a better result. The team did an amazing job all weekend, Chiyo put the car in first place, the team put all the effort in to get the car ready in the morning. “The car gave me a lot of confidence, I got up to speed quite well I guess, not too far away from my team mates. My stint was amazing, a bit long and a lot of Safety Cars. Disappointingly, half way from the end of the race we were in third place, but Chiyo put the hammer down at the end and we achieved a good result, and it’s awesome for Nissan.”
Darren Cox – Global Head of Marketing, Sales and Brand, NISMO:
“This is a truly historic result for Nissan,” said Cox. “It is another great chapter in the history of NISMO and the legendary GT-R. I am proud of the teamwork from a global group of committed Nissan and NISMO racers in the car, garage and behind the scenes keeping the fans up to date. The news will reverberate from Australia to Japan and into Europe especially Belgium, Germany and the UK.”
Richard Emery – Managing Director and CEO, Nissan Motor Co Australia:
“It was a crazy day, it was an amazing outcome,” said Emery. “The team worked hard to get the car right for today, and they’ve got the fruits of their hard work. “This race is part of Nissan’s global program, and it is important for Australia to be part of that. You’ve got unique and innovative programs with the way the drivers come through the GT Academy system, and GT-R has always been known for its innovation, and in a few months time, we’ll be going to Le Mans with an innovative car. “It’s really great that our program is part of the global effort.”