Harold Primat’s 2014 international GT odyssey begins on the other side of the world this weekend when he and HTP Motorsport take on the Bathurst 12 Hour event in Australia.
The magnificent circuit in New South Wales, which climbs steeply to the summit of Mount Panorama before plunging the 570ft downhill again, was originally made famous by its legendary touring car race, the Bathurst 1000. But since 2011 GT3-spec machinery has been eligible to contest its season opening 12-hour event, which has now developed into one of the sport’s blue riband endurance contests.
Primat, who finished fourth overall on debut there last February, returns in 2014 eager to kick off his season in style. Helping to make that happen will be HTP Motorsport who, although new to Bathurst, proved the standout performers in European GT racing last term thanks to victory at the 24 Hours of Spa plus championship titles in the FIA GT Series and Blancpain Endurance Series.
Armed with the German squad’s fast and reliable Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, Primat will be ably assisted by two drivers who are no strangers to tasting success in long-distance events. Thomas Jaeger scored victory at the same race 12 months ago while Maximilian Buhk was part of HTP’s winning line-up at Spa.
That combination makes Primat and co one of the favourites at Bathurst, although the man himself remains pragmatic about their chances.
“Of course we have high hopes – we wouldn’t be going unless we thought we could win – but there’s an awful lot that can happen over 12 hours,” he explained. “The event has become very prestigious and attracts top European teams and drivers. Also, as successful as HTP Motorsport have been in Europe they have no experience of racing at Bathurst, which is a very particular circuit, so I think we’ll adopt a conservative approach initially; there are so many elements to consider. Having said that I have every confidence in them and my team-mates. It’s a strong package and if we perform to our potential then a podium is definitely achievable.
“The biggest single challenge at Bathurst is the circuit itself. I’d liken it to a shorter version of the Nurburgring Nordschleife, with its elevation changes, speed, blind corners and unforgiving concrete walls. It’s also a tough place to drive a GT because of the lack of overtaking opportunities. It’s virtually impossible to pass even the slower cars over the mountain section, which means you can easily lose a lot of time there. There are also plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. Get everything right though and it’s one of the best circuits in the world.”
Primat’s preparations continued during a two-day test at the Ledenon circuit in France on January 24/25 where he, Jaeger and Buhk worked on refining the Mercedes’ set-up to cope with the unique demands of Mount Panorama.
“Testing went well and I think we’ve found a good base from which to move forward when we arrive at Bathurst,” he added. “Ledenon’s geography was a real help, and Thomas and Max were very fast too. Having a strong relationship with the team, its engineers and your co-drivers is so important, and I think we’ve all started to develop a good rapport. I’m thrilled to be with HTP.
“As for the Mercedes, it feels a bit more stable and comfortable than the car I drove last season, which are really important characteristics in endurance racing, especially at a venue like Bathurst.”
Australian motorsport website Speedcafe is hosting a poll to find your favourite for the Bathurst 12 Hour. To vote for Harold and HTP Motorsport click here.
Bathurst 12 Hour Schedule*
Friday 7 February:
Free Practice 1: 08:55 – 09:55
Free Practice 2: 13:05 – 14:05
Free Practice 3: 16:15 – 17:15
Saturday 8 February:
Qualifying 1: 09:00 – 10:00
Qualifying 2: 13:30 – 14:10
Qualifying 3: 14:20 – 14:35
Sunday 9 February:
Bathurst 12 Hour: 06:15 – 18:15