Mortimers Vow A Return To Bathurst
MEDIA RELEASE 26/2/2014
FOR IMMEDIATE USE
Mortimers Vow A Return To Bathurst
Reliving the intensity of this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 hour endurance race, Kiwi BMW team Mortimer Motorsport say with confidence that they’ll aim to return to the mountain again in 2015.
This year’s assault on Mt Panorama attracted some of the world’s most exclusive endurance teams with the focus on making it to the end, just as much as crossing the line in a favourable position.
From the outset of the race it was predicted that the sixty five degree track heat and forty degree ambient temperature would be the determining factor between success and failure across the twelve hours.
“The conditions of heat were something taken into consideration coming into the enduro, however it’s flow-on effects were something that few could have accounted for” says Warwick Mortimer, team principle of the Kiwi BMW GT4 M3 campaign.
Although the team had been entered into the Group D Super Production Class, upon registration the team we’re not provided with a confirmation of class until the day of racing – where the first lesson of the event was learnt.
In entering the Group D Super Production Class, the team had to sacrifice the ability to run with a sequential gearbox and light-weight chassis components. Only to learn once at Bathurst the team could have indeed run with these, without having to change classes of competition.
“There’s no blame there at all, it’s just one of those things that you have to deal with in going into an event of this calibre and intensity. We can change that for 2015. We did ourselves proud racing with extra weight and standard gear this year – proving that we can better our result with those changes alone in 2015” says Warwick.
Arriving prior to the dog-fight about to unfold on February 9, all drivers in the Mortimer team bagged several valuable reconnaissance laps sacrificing their virginity to the mountain in the team’s road-standard rental car.
Although both partnerships in the Mortimer and Lyons duo had raced successfully in Australia before, no members of the team had ever tackled Bathurst until now.
“Quite a different place to what you see on television” says Warwick – “not something we expected, but the only thing you see prior to the event from television coverage are the permanent concrete barriers lining the course. Until the day prior to practice and qualifying the mountain is a public road, with plenty more kangaroos to dodge on the reconnaissance laps than you see in the traditional V8Supercar clash.”
Commencing at 6.15am Australian time, the 40 car field experienced its first taste of carnage straight out of the pits with teams preparing themselves for the 12 hours of racing ahead of them right up to the last minute. The chequered flag saw teams scrambling to get out of the pits and into racing without even making the grid line up.
Younger driver of the Mortimer duo Andre commenced the Mortimer’s campaign, which proved a good piece of strategy on the back of being one of those cars to enter the race from the pits rather than the grid.
Whilst the first 4 or 5 laps of the mountain involved a considerable amount of butchery Andre gained slowly and cautiously from the rear to move the team up to where he would have been if starting on grid. By the time Andre had gained some security in the field he had also nabbed himself a personal best lap time of two minutes 23 seconds.
Given the intense heat the team had chosen to run their mountain assault on Pirelli tyres following valuable testing on variations of tyres prior to leaving New Zealand.
“With the set up and weather conditions being dished out, we had previously tested the Pirelli’s and knew they would give us what we needed in terms of grip and endurance” says Warwick.
Tyres are where several teams were caught out over the 12 hours, rubber durability proved to be saving grace in successful 12 hour battles. Others who failed to take this into consideration didn’t last the distance with some teams quickly using up their maximum allocation of tyres well before the close of the race.
Reaching thirty degrees by 9am young British import to the team Michael Lyons - driving for Ferrari in Europe’s GTS series took charge of the BMW at driver swap. Previous to this Andre had pushed the BMW from 27th to 25th overall.
Using his professional skill to the team’s advantage, Michael secured a two minute twenty two second lap time and moved the BMW up to 22nd position overall. This position and skill level of the young Brit also helped the Kiwi’s to create a 16 minute lead ahead of the next car in Group D Super Production Class.
Temperatures at the end of Michaels two hour stint where pushed up to the high 30’s where he signalled a ‘knock’ in the rear with two laps to go before the next driver change.
Before Warwick took over on the fourth hour, whilst in the pits the team determined that two axles needed to be replaced. As a consequence of this, the sweltering heat had boiled the axle lubrication down to nothing and the knock that Michael was feeling was that of metal on metal resistance.
With one lap out on track for
Warwick whilst coming across the top of Mt Panorama, the
BMW’s alternator belt gave way sparking his decision to
shut the BMW down, and coast back down into pit lane at over
130km/hour with no engine to assist.
The belt was swiftly replaced but the team’s ongoing concern over heat continued. With track temperatures now at 55 degrees all other teams we’re experiencing the same mechanical issues.
By this stage casualties on the mountain included the visiting Clearwater Racing Ferrari after being totalled in a crash with Nismo’s Nissan GTR, Kiwi team Motorsport Services would soon bow out of the weekend with two Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Cars in tatters and Lamborghini’s from team JBS Swift and M Motorsport written-off also.
“The pressure that heat was causing with fatigue was obvious, four crew that we knew of were taken away with serious burns over the course of the day, so the casualties weren’t only being created on track” says Warwick.
Prior to getting the BMW back out on track and into contention, whilst the alternator belt change was being made Warwick noted that the BMW’s gearbox was feeling less than perfect. Subsequently after waiting in a stationery position the BMW’s factory performance clutch had ceased and needed to be replaced.
Because of the amount of heat being generated on the track and being generated into the pits, cars that needed to be repaired took lengthy amounts of time to cool down enough to a point where they could be safely worked on by crews. Cars we’re mounted on axle stands only, providing little room for air circulation and ventilation under the car and in between components.
In the Mortimer’s case, a full five hours passed before the Kiwi BMW could get back out on track. In this time the team had waited for the car to cool down enough to safely work on, complete a change and realignment of clutch alongside gearbox and drive-shaft calibration. Front rotors and brake pads we’re also changed before the 12 hour campaign could be continued.
By this time, all that was left was to finish the race with 1 hour 25 minutes to go and cautious determination in hand.
Father of Michael Lyons, Frank Lyons was the last Mortimer compatriot to take control of the BMW, with the order of treating the car gently enough to make up time but finish the 12 hour battle without ensuing any further mechanical issues or damage.
Surprisingly on reviewing television coverage (of the event which was broadcast live online worldwide) the BMW received little panel damage throughout the race, where others had encountered heavy contact under high pressure driving and little forgiveness from European drivers.
The Mortimer’s finished the Liqui-Molly Bathurst 12 Hour in 27th place, also happy that the unique engine built by Dinan Engines in the US came away unscathed in light of the pressure exposed by extreme temperature conditions.
All four drivers thanked the crew members of the team, acknowledging that it was a race won in the pits not on the track this time round. “Although it was a weekend of pressure and intensity like no other I’ve experienced before, everyone in the team is unanimous that we want to be back there next year” confirmed Warwick.
“We wouldn’t have got there this year without the support of our sponsors who have given us help right up to the start of racing and we’re looking forward to bringing them back to the mountain with us in 2015”.
The Mortimer’s experience in 2014 has definitely proved a healthy starting point for preparation towards 2015, and provided a comprehensive understanding of what variables the team needs to be prepared for on their return campaign to Mt Panorama.
The Mortimer Motorsport 12 Hour Bathurst campaign was supported by Te Manava Resort Rarotonga, and DSV Shipping Worldwide.