After a manic 2018 campaign running four cars, the awesome MR crew were looking forward to a slightly more focused effort for this season.
As usual, preparations started many months before the end of 2018, and we had 'Bruce' the Objective McLaren as ready as mechanically possible. Like the last 4 years, the Ice Break Porsche arrived at the MR workshop for some last minute tweaks before we loaded both cars into the transporter to head to the mountain.
Given the extraordinary amount of international professional drivers in this year's race, it was always going to be more challenging than ever before. As a result, there were essentially two races within the race. Both of our cars were in the Pro-Am category so there were almost 20 cars with full pro driver line-ups who should be ahead of us.
Tony and Luffy were joined by experienced Irish McLaren hot-shot Andrew Watson. Andrew was a terrific asset to our campaign with his experience in the challenging 650S.
Practice and qualifying went well with the fellas inside the Pro-Am top 5 after qualifying. The race started at 5.45 am on Sunday morning and Luffy was chosen to do the opening graveyard shift starting from grid 18.
Given he is one of the most experienced drivers at the notorious Mt Panorama circuit we chose to put Luffy in the car to start and he made a few places in the opening laps then settled in behind his protégé Jaxon and Dumas in their Porsches.
After his first stint, we put Tony in the car who a solid single stint then put Andrew Watson in the car for a double stint. Wallsy took the controls again when ole ‘Bruce' started to show signs of power loss. Luffy climbed aboard after Wallsy's stint and we could see from the telemetry that the intake temperatures were way too high. Combined with a new appetite for about a litre of oil per hour, we decided to park the car to do further inspections. After a 90 minute rest with an icepack on his forehead, we sent ‘Bruce' out for a final couple of laps to be classified as a finisher in 23rd.
CJ was missing his loyal co-driver and Porsche works driver Pat Long this year, but he was joined by Porsche works driver Kevin Estre and our own Carrera Cup champion and 2019 Porsche junior, Jaxon Evans.
Practice and qualifying were seamless with all drivers doing a great job and on the pace. Kevin qualified the car and after the first set of tyres was comfortably inside the top 5 outright. Most of the international teams chose to run a second set of new tyres which gave them more favourable track conditions bumping us to 13th outright and narrowly missing the top-10 shootout.
As usual, the race starts in the pitch black at 5.45 am. Jaxon was chosen to start the race and he did a cracking job settling into position behind Porsche works driver Romain Dumas and intelligently watched and learned from one of the masters while keeping the car in good shape for his first stint. Due to the outstanding fuel consumption of the Porsche Cup R Jaxon was last to cycle in for his first fuel stop, which was great news for strategy options later in the race.
Despite not having raced a car since Long Beach, California early last year, CJ had been doing his usual outstanding job against the other Pro-Am drivers. Unfortunately, on his first lap out, he made a small mistake with slightly larger consequences and the car backed into the wall just past the ‘grate' across the top of the mountain and our day was done.
There is no doubt that the 2019 edition of this iconic race had the highest number of European and Australian pro drivers in its history.
After the planning, expense and effort that went into the race from the AMRC (Awesome MR Crew) and the car owners, we certainly didn't depart Bathurst with the rewards we were after. We have got rather used to heading home from the 12-Hour with plenty of silverware, so we guess it was our turn to miss-out this year. Either way, we love competing in this race and hope to be able to come back next year for another crack.