The 2023 Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race is now officially in the history books, having taken place from February 3 through 5. Although it was Valentino Rossi’s first-ever run at the Bathurst 12 Hour event, he came into it hot on the heels of having been part of BMW M Motorsport Team WRT’s third-place-finishing effort at the 24 Hours of Dubai in January, 2023.
Rossi’s teammates for the Bathurst 12 Hour, Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin, are both talented and experienced GT racers in their own right—and in fact, Martin was one of Rossi’s teammates at the 24 Hours of Dubai, as well. So, how did the team fare during the Doctor’s first Bathurst 12 Hour outing?
Team WRT fielded two cars in the race, with the number 46 BMW M4 GT3 piloted by Farfus/Martin/Rossi having qualified in sixth place, and the number 32 piloted by Sheldon van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, and Charles Weerts starting in ninth place. When it was all said and done, though, Team WRT car number 32 finished the race in fourth place, while number 46 finished exactly where it started—in sixth position.
Gallery: BMW M Motorsport Team WRT - 2023 Bathurst 12 Hour
Crashes that caused safety car periods occurred at a few points during the race, but generally were fewer than has occurred at past runs of the Bathurst 12 Hours. In fact, the final green flag period set a new record for the longest green flag period in Bathurst history, lasting longer than the final third of the race (four hours and double-digit minutes). As a result, commentators remarked that it was also the fastest Bathurst 12 Hour in history—and in fact, the top three finishers of the 2023 event crossed the finish line within 1.4 seconds of one another.
Although the Mount Panorama circuit is renowned for both its history and its rather tight confines, it was most definitely a race—not a parade. (In an interview during the weekend, someone asked Rossi about the difference between racing motorcycles and racing cars, and he noted that cars are absolutely the correct vehicle to race at Mount Panorama. He would not want to race bikes here in modern times.)
At one point, the number 46 car was fighting in the top three—but an endurance race is most comparable to a marathon, and not a sprint. A brake light issue resulted in a need for the car to pit late in the race for a repair—and of course, every second counts, so that’s at least part of why number 46 found itself back in P6.
“My first Bathurst experience has been very good because it’s a great place. For us Europeans, it is a legendary place because we always play it on the simulator,” Rossi said in a statement after the race.
“To have the chance to race here and experience the real track is great. It is a fantastic circuit. You have to maintain attention but it is very enjoyable when you drive. I think that also my speed and performance were good. I feel good in the car; it is very good to drive, but during the race, especially in the hot conditions, we need a bit more pace. We could have been in the top five but overall it was a good race, and being the first experience, it was very positive,” he concluded.
Rossi’s teammates, as well as BMW M Motorsport head Andreas Roos and BMW M Team WRT team principal Vincent Vosse all complimented the six drivers on the outstanding job that they did, with Vosse even saying “There is a very positive point and that’s the line-ups. All six drivers have done an outstanding job. They made no mistakes at all, they all had a similar speed. We also need to mention what Vale did; that was on a very high level for his first attempt at Bathurst. It was also really a pleasure to have Augusto in the team for the first time, and great to have Sheldon back with us after a few years. Now we are looking forward to Kyalami.”
Kyalami is the second round of the 2023 Intercontinental GT Challenge endurance racing series, of which the Bathurst 12 Hour was the first round. Rossi won’t be competing in that round, with BMW M Works driver Philipp Eng battling for position in South Africa instead.