• Successful first running leads to 2017 return for new Mount Panorama event

FOLLOWING a hugely successful debut event last weekend, organisers are pleased to confirm that Challenge Bathurst will return to a late November weekend date in 2017.

The second running of Challenge Bathurst will aim to build on the hugely successful inaugural event held last weekend that saw more than 320 competitors accept the challenge and tackle Mount Panorama.

Split into two groups, 120 cars tackled the Lightning SuperSprint on Thursday and Friday while more than 200 had the opportunity to tame the Mountain during the Thunder Regularity across the weekend.

“We have been very pleased with the feedback from the inaugural event and it was an easy decision to commit straight away to it coming back in 2017,” explained Event Director James O’Brien.

“It was a great weekend with perfect weather and lots of track time for everyone involved, so we will continue to build on that for next year.”

While some used the event to ‘tick the box’ of driving Mount Panorama at speed, others used it for more serious purposes – including testing for some of Mount Panorama’s biggest events.

Four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Steven Richards was part of a significant BMW Presence in the Lightning SuperSprint competition, his BMW team SRM squad testing five drivers ahead of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour next February.

“There’s no question that any track time you get at Mount Panorama is good track time,” Richards said.

“It was a great opportunity to get on track and get some very valuable laps to help us prepare for next February.

“It’s also really good to have this event for the grass roots guys where driving is their passion and getting on Mount Panorama is hugely special for them.

“I spoke to guys who were last there in 2011 and came back especially for this year for Challenge Bathurst – they were waiting for something like this to come back and I think it’s a huge hit.”

Results of the Lightning SuperSprint were naturally dominated by the top-flight GT3 machinery present on the Mountain, with the MARC Cars Australia-run BMW M6GT3 setting the fastest time of the week at 2m04.291s.

Second was the BMW team SRM M6, while Adelaide driver Yasser Shahin was third fastest in his Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 with a 2m05.410s benchmark.

Porsche Carrera Cup young-guns Jaxon Evans and James Abela were fourth and fifth, respectively, in their 911 GT3 Cup Cars. Familiar names filled the leaderboard, with Tim Miles, Wayne Mack, Ryal Harris, Brenton Grove and Rod Salmon filling the top-10.

Showcasing the variety of cars on hand, champion driver James Winslow was 11th overall in a Radical SR3, his 2m11.67s lap the fastest ever for one of the open-top sports cars on the Mountain.

Carey McMahon banked a fast 2m22.99s lap in his ex-Tony Longhurst Ford Sierra RS500 as he prepares for a return of the Heritage Touring Cars to the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour event next Easter.