The epic 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour will go down in history, with its record-breaking speeds and multiple on-track incidents that led to a record 20 safety car periods.
For the Class D PPE-prepared Schaeffler Audi TT RS of Glyn Crimp, Matt Cherry and Stuart Kostera, it was a steep learning curve as the Manufacturers’ Championship racer made its debut in the enduro, running slick tyres for the first time.
If the track and rules were new to the team, the competition wasn’t, with key ManChamp competition in the form of Beric Lynton’s BMW 1M and the Sherrin’s BMW 135i also in the mix for Class D honours.
After successful tests in Phillip Island and Winton, the Schaeffler Audi crew was confident as it wheeled the white TT RS out for first practice on Friday, 6 February. IT was familiar territory for PPE, who had prepared and run the three-car Fiat Abarth Racing attack on the mountain in last year’s 12 Hour, finishing with a 1-2-3 in class.
Friday was intended to work on consistency and race pace, with Glyn Crimp given the seat time to acclimatise himself with the Schaeffler Audi at the Bathurst circuit. He quickly hit the 2 minute, 30 seconds mark, some eight seconds faster than when he lasted competed on the 6.2km Mount Panorama circuit.
Matt Cherry also impressed with time improvements throughout the day, joining multiple production car champion Kostera in the 2 minute, 23 second bracket; over three seconds faster than the BMW ‘targets’.
A further 19 laps were completed early on the Saturday morning with durability the focus, although lap times still impressed in the low 2 minute, 24 second bracket.
A hot afternoon qualifying session saw track temperatures soar and times come off slightly, Kostera clocking a 2 minute, 24.3 second lap to take 42nd on the grid, almost a second ahead of the team’s nearest regular competitor, the Lynton BMW 1M and ahead of nominally-faster C Class cars such as an Aston Martin Vantage and Ginetta G50.
Come the 5.50am race start Kostera, Cherry and Crimp quickly established a solid pace aboard the Schaeffler Audi TT RS, with a 2 minute, 23.0 second lap on the twelfth pace demonstrating the car’s speed.
As the race approached the two hour mark, and the PPE TT RS had just gone past to lap the Lynton 1M, an issue with a wheel bearing saw the car in for an unscheduled pit stop. From there the team decided to back off the pace to reduce wear and tear on the machine, which was stressing components to a level not seen before, thanks to the slick tyres allowed at the enduro and the sheer grip the car was generating.
Consistency was to be the name of the day, however just over the five hour mark, an incident occurred under one of 20 safety car period for the race that would take out the PPE Schaeffler Audi through no fault of its own.
With officials requiring a tightly-bunched pack under safety car conditions and a maximum of five lengths between cars, Glyn Crimp was last in the train as the field approached the dipper. The sudden appearance of a Ferrari 458 stopped in the middle of the track gave Crimp nowhere to go, and the Audi sustained front end damage that put the Schaeffler Audi TT RS out of the race.
“It was disappointing to end the event prematurely, but I think we showed we had the pace to beat our regular competitors. Without this incident we were confident of having the reliability to win Class D outright,” said PPE boss Alan Heaphy.
Despite the set-back, the team is already in rebuild mode with the intent on having the TT RS back in action for the first round of the 2015 Australian Manufacturers’ Championship, to be held 27-29 March.