BLITZING BAD-BOY GT3
These days European exotics rather than V8 Supercars rule the road at Mount Panorama, including the bad boy race-bred AMG GT3. It’s the fastest Benz short of Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car and anyone with $500,000 can buy one, whether professional racers or cashed-up fans.
There were plenty in last weekend‘s Bathurst 12-Hour, including the car that finished second with Jamie Whincup on the roster. I drove one the day after, rigged for racing and trailing the pace car of former F1 driver Bernd Schneider. Cranking across the top of the mountain, trailing V8 thunder and twisting the digital speed readout past 200km/h, I was on top of the world.
Supercar pilot Scott McLaughlin set the Bathurst 1000 benchmark lap last year in a Ford Falcon: 2 minutes 04.90 secs. Chas Mostert took pole for the 12-Hour in a BMW M6 at 2:01.93. A Supercar is quick on the straight, at nearly 300km/h down Conrod, while a GT3 flies through corners and stops as if it’s been hit with a brick.
The homegrown V8s (595kW) are relatively primitive, with a manual six-speed gearbox, hardcompound Dunlop slicks, 1410kg limit and no ABS or traction control.
The GT3 Benz, with a 6.3-litre V8 (404kW), gets ABS and traction control, huge Pirelli slicks, carbon-fibre bodywork, giant wings and 1285kg limit. It hits 100km/h in 3.8 seconds.
With the V8 idling like King Kong in a cage, I follow Schneider. Then we’re off at full throttle with the dash lights telling me to take the next gear. Again and again. The Benz is hot and intimidating, wandering more than I expect on the straights, but it is fast, fast, fast. And the giant brakes mean it stops, stops, stops. Surprisingly light, the steering turns the moment I think about a corner, allowing me to pick up the throttle early. It’s huge fun and it’s over way too fast.
I keep thinking about the real potential of the blitzer Benz. Without the restrictions to keep the 12-Hour field even, it could easily be the first car to lap Mount Panorama in less than two minutes.