The Prototype & GT Challenge bid adieu to Japan and the Suzuka International Circuit to head Down Under to Australia and iRacing’s newest addition, the legendary Mount Panaroma (aka Bathurst). The 23-turn, 4 mile (5.81km), track hosts a multitude of real life racing series, including the ever so popular V8 Supercars and the Bathurst 12 Hour sports car race.  Bathurst is a circuit that drivers look forward to as it is one of the best in the world in terms of being an absolute challenge.  The track isn’t wide, actually quite the opposite, and the elevation changes are second to none.  The Prototype & GT Challenge sim-drivers kept that in mind this week as the series tackled this track for the first time, as they know difficulties in traffic as well as needed patience would at their highest levels of the season.

Bathurst’s challenging Mt. Panorama circuit provided great racing and required true patience from all drivers.

The HPD main race saw Tommaso Carlà on pole ahead of Madison Down, Anthony Kernich, Marlon J McMullen and a slew of other HPD drivers.  The beginning of the race saw Carlà and Down quickly emerge as the class of the field, gapping everyone by the end of the first lap, with  Kernich holding third comfortably over McMullen.  Carlà pulled a gap of a little under five seconds to Down as they made it to one thirds distance of this week’s endurance round.  Everything would change on Lap 13, however, when Carlà ran slightly wide entering the Esses.  The circuit is so unforgiving that one mistake is all it needs for your race to be over and, in this instance, Carlà’s mistake ended his race, allowing Down to take over the top spot.  The top three of Down, Kernich and McMullen would pit on Laps 29, 22 and 30 respectively, however no changes in position were in the cards and the same trio mounted the podium in that order after the finish.

The results for this week provided quite the shake-up in the HPD championship, as Carlà and Kernich are now tied for the top spot.  Behind them are sim-racers Matthieu Leroy, Leonid Sokolov, Stephane Gamblin and Matthias Witte.  The coming weeks will be important for both Kernich and Carlà as they try to grab the top step of the podium.

Australia’s Down (red) took the win on home ground, while Carlà (leading) has a new contender to deal with in the HPD championship.

The Corvettes main race saw a very high attrition rate.  Tony Autridge was on pole over Wayne C Bourke, Charles Ng and Jason Scully, a quartet who instantly formed a single file line in the order in which they came to the green flag.  By the end of the second lap it was clear that Autridge and Bourke alone had the pace to compete for the win.  Behind them, Ng and Scully would separated from each other, with Ng pulling an early gap to Scully.  Meanwhile, the two leaders staged a great battle, going side-by-side at the fastest part of the track entering The Chase (Turns 20, 21 and 22) with Autridge defending the lead from Bourke for the lead for another lap.

Traffic played a small role in helping Autridge build a small gap to Bourke, but on Lap 14 Autridge would lose the rear end exiting turn two, making substantial contact with the concrete barrier and ending his race.  Bourke thus inherited the lead with Ng and Scully maintaining second and third behind him through the pit stop cycle between Laps 21 and 24.

Outside of the top three . . . well, there weren’t any finishers to put it plainly.  Over half the field had issues, whether from self-induced mistakes or small gaffes in traffic that had massive implications on such a narrow, unforgiving track.  In the end, Bourke came through with victory, while Ng and Scully followed not too far behind in the second and third positions.

The Corvette championship is another that is looking to be a good one so far this season.  Currently after a quarter of the schedule has already been finished, Kay Kaschube leads Brett Taft by only eight points.  Behind them sit Gunner Moore and Florian Denard, with Marcel Wiemers not far behind in fifth.  Drivers leave Bathurst and hope to rejoin in the main race next week at Silverstone.

Bourke tackles The Mountain en route to the Corvette win.

The Ford GT class had Andrew Rehn on pole over Beau Cattell, David Hingston, Nathan Growden and many more.  When the green flag waved, Rehn assumed the point with Hingston quickly getting around Cattell for second.  Later on the opening lap, Rehn would make a mistake entering the Esses, resulting in hard contact with the barriers.  The heavy damage sent him for a long visit to the pits, but he would return to action and finish the race many laps down.

In the aftermath of Rehn’s crash, Hingston held the lead over a hard charging Cattell and with Growden continuing to apply pressure.  At the end of Lap 8, Hingston made a mistake exiting the final corner, allowing Cattell past on the front straight.  Hingston subsequently pitted at the end of Lap 9, repairing a small amount of damage to his C6.R, and moving Growden up to the second position behind Cattell.

At this point, Growden started gaining ground and applying pressure to Cattell . . . until Lap 14 when he spun in The Chase.  Miraculously, Growden collected no damage on his car and only lost a few seconds while maintaining the second position.  He went on to pit on three laps later, hoping to use a bit of different strategy in order to catch Cattell.  However, Growden changed tires and Cattell did not when he pitted on Lap 26.  Thus Cattell easily maintained the lead and went on to take the victory, while Growden held on to second over a hard charging Hingston who stormed back into contention after his early pit stop.

The Ford GT championship may have a new leader, but don’t let that fool you: Ferenc Asztalos sits a top of the standings above Csaba Volyka Jr, Jason Mizzi, Paul Van Mierlo and Fabio Gonzalez.  However both Volyka and Gonzalez have only raced two out of the three rounds this season, and in the future should be strong contenders for the top spot in the standings.

Cattell took the most points in Ford GT after a grueling race.

The iRacing/com Prototype and GT Challenge closed the door on a successful week of endurance racing at Mount Panaroma and the third round of the season.  With a quarter of the season already over, drivers are starting to see the trends in the championship ladders and who constitutes their competition.  From the Antipodes, the series heads next to England and the Silverstone circuit for the fourth round of the season.

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