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Bathurst 24 Hours – Hours 1-3 Report

Hour 1 - Unstressed
This was a fascinating first hour. The opening laps saw the Mosler, Shorty at the wheel, mixing it with the two Monaros, the John Bowe BMW, Paul Morris in the 54 Falken Porsche and Paul Stokell in the Lamborghini.

Mixing it is really an exaggeration, but the MT900 certainly closed up on the two Monaros across the Mountain for the first time, having powered ahead of Bowe going up the hill on lap 1.

But Short soon eased back on his pace, such that he slipped behind a charging Stokell Lambo, the V12 having passed Bowe on lap two.

The opening top six was these six, and so far we had no sign of Brabham in the BE Ferrari or Harvey in the Cirtek Porsche shining in this race. We soon would.

The Morgan was running in an excellent 13th early on, but pitted twice within the first half an hour with what looked like severe water loss. Lots of the cold stuff was certainly added. It was a radiator hose that had worn away against a pulley.

The Peter Floyd Kawasaki Porsche was smoking badly, but it was “only a loose oil tank cap,” said Liz Halliday, but Floyd then copped a drive through penalty.

Stokell was flying in third in the Diablo, but punctured in Caltex Chase, the flailing rubber then damaging a brake line and dropping this one to 28th. Stokell had a biggish off under braking as the tyre let go, but the damage was purely from the rubber.

With Short and Bowe going at it very sensibly, and Morris too, it was Harvey and Brabham suddenly into third and fourth. These two old pros. had played it cautiously for 20 minutes, then moved though most of the top six. Harvey let Brabham through going up the hill after 50 minutes, the blue Porsche then puncturing its left rear a lap later. These two had both lapped in the 2:16s, almost as fast as the Monaros.

The unstressed beasties dominated the hour though, Brock moving past Pretty after 30 minutes or so, and easing away to a 15 second lead.

Just after the hour, the 40 BMW M3 (Robert Brooks) made a mistake on the top, and touched the VIP Porsche – and then the wall, very hard. That brought out the first safety car – and while it was out (from 70 minutes into the race), the rain began at the bottom part of the track. That’s right – at the bottom, not at the top!

One Hour Positions

1. 05 Monaro 25 laps
2. 427 Monaro –15
3. 48 Ferrari –35
4. 54 Porsche –51
5. 420 BMW –57
6. 900 Mosler –76
7. 6 Porsche (B)
8. 7 Porsche (B)
9. 24 Porsche
10. 70 Porsche
11. 888 Porsche
12. 11 Ferrari (B)
13. 4 BMW (B)
14. 59 Commodore (F)
15. 23 BMW (F)

20. 8 Porsche – 3 laps
28. 20 Lamborghini – 4 laps
43. 66 Morgan – 15 laps

Hour 2 – Bloody Wet
The rain was so heavy that most cars pitted immediately, but the 05 Monaro was one that had already stopped (for Murphy, at 65 minutes), so stayed out on slicks for a while behind the SC – and eventually had to come in, sideways and very slowly!

With torrential rain hitting the whole track, the SC stayed out – and with cars pitting from behind it, the order on the track didn’t reflect reality.

The rain remained very, very heavy, and the SC remained on the track. This was rain by the bucket load, and at the top of the hill, rivers were flowing over the wall, onto the track.

1 hour 45: SC still out. Neil Cunningham pops in to report that the Morgan is now running fine, having lost at least half an hour of green flag racing.

Thunder and lightning next: maybe we’d better post this while we can…….. as the whole field is stopped on the track.

They soon got under way again, still behind the SC, and that's the way it stayed at two hours.

The stops for wet rubber and fuel had left a few subtle changes to the order at two hours.

The 05 Monaro dropped to fourth, so Richards led in 427, from the BE Ferrari and then Fitzgerald in the 54 Porsche, Bowe in fifth in the 5 litre BMW, the 7 Porsche sixth, the GNM GT3-RS seventh, the Alzens' Porsche eighth, Mosler ninth, 888 Porsche tenth and VJ Angelo still in an outstanding position - 11th in the Z3.

Hour 3 - Racing Again, Fast Guys Shine
Then we went racing again. Michael Bartels briefly unlapped himself from Steven Richards in the 427 Monaro - but the big, unstressed Holden eased past again down Con-Rod Straight, and Bartels couldn't get the lap back.

Paul Stokell has been very impressive in the Diablo, passing the 05 Murphy Monaro to get one lap back. At 140 mins. into the race, Bartels was actually the quickest man on the track, but as the tarmac dried (the rain had actually stopped soon after they went green flag racing) the Monaros took over again - or at least until a drier line started to appear. Then it began raining again, and the pace of the top runners 'settled' into the mid 2:30 bracket.

Three Hour Positions
Here are the lap times of the top ten at 2 hours 45 minutes, just before the track started to get wetter, rather than drier.

1. 427 2:32.5
2. 05 2:35.8
3. 48 2:32.3
4. 7 2:37.4
5. 54 2:36.5
6. 420 2:38.2
7. 6 2:33.7 -1 lap
8. 900 2:37.0
9. 70 2:48.7 -2 laps
10. 888 2:45.7
11. 20 2:33.0.

We're having trouble knowing who is in what without checking, because the driver names aren't changing on the timing screen. Philipp Peter is definitely in the BE Ferrari in third place, because Klaus Engelhorn has just told us, and we know Pat Pearce is in the Mosler, because the other three drivers are all in the pit. Pearce was having a real old wrestle with the Mosler - possibly not the perfect car in the wet.

The Monaros are 18 seconds apart, with Philipp Peter a minute further back. The closest battle is between the 7 and 54 Porsches, just a second apart. Notice that the Lamborghini is up to 11th place (from 28th) - a great Paul Stokell drive, which only ended when he pitted at 2 hours 50 minutes. There's a three hour limit for one driver to stay at the wheel.

So an eighth of this unusual event has passed, and the Monaros seem perfect in the wet and the dry. They're so unstressed as to be ... well, embarrassing, really. They just waffle along.

One unusual scene in the paddock: a rear axle has been removed from a road going Z3 and is headed for a racer with a failed one - we think no. 26.

The Morgan is running perfectly, Tom Shrimpton at the wheel, but 25 laps down on the overall leader, in 41st place. The 24 Cirtek Porsche is 16th, and matching the times of the top group as it recovers from its puncture. The sister no. 8 car is also six laps down, after its oil leak and black flag problems.

Next report at six hours.

 

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