When a room full of very experienced motorsport journalists all say, “well that was strange.” You know they are many, many, race fans out there completely mystified as to what just happened. Here’s how the finish of the 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour played out.
With 19minutes 51 seconds to go, Bryce Fullwood in the #95 MARC Focus and Ash Walsh in the #69 Supabarn Audi R8 simultaneously go into the wall at Reid Park. While the MARC Focus bounced along the wall before coming to a stop, the Audi ended up stranded sideways across the track. The unsighted John Martin in the #19 Mercedes AMG GT came around the blind corner, sent it sideways before slamming into the stricken R8 at very high speed. This sickening impact left the entire track strewn with debris, including extensive amounts of carbon fibre and fluids.
The safety car was immediately deployed, however with medical officials now on the track attending to injured drivers (Martin had suspected broken ribs and punctured lung), the safety car brought the field to a halt, just prior to the finish line. Initially race officials suspended the race (i.e. hoping for a restart once the track was cleared) and momentarily stopped the race clock. However, it quickly became apparent there was no chance of clearing the track in time for a restart – leaving officials no other option but to prematurely finish the race under the red flag with around 12-minutes remaining on the clock. This is the first-time in the race’s history it has finished under the red flag.
This is where things get really bizarre. At the end of Lap 271 (the lap prior to the red flag incident), the timing sheets showed #991 EuroMechanica/Craft-Bamboo Porsche in third overall. Between the yellow flag being employed and the race officially ending, car #991 was given a penalty for Laurens Vanthoor ‘Exceeding Allowable Time’ (i.e. the maximum time a driver is allowed to spend in the car). The penalty demoted them from 3rd to 5th – while promoting the Class B Pro-Am #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R up to third (making it four Porsches in the Top 6).
Under the Red Flag Rule, positions revert back to the last, full racing lap (laps under the safety car do not count), therefore, despite all being destroyed, the #69 Supabarn Audi, #19 Mercedes AMG GT and #95 MARC Focus all appeared in the results, as they were still circulating on lap 271. In fact, the #95 Focus finished 1st in Invitational B, while the #69 Supabarn Audi R8 LMS took first in AAM (GT3 Amateur Class). Ash Walsh’s team mate, James Koundouris presented Ash his trophy in hospital. Fortunately for Ash, he was later cleared of any broken bones and internal injuries, however he did require surgery for a deep gash to his elbow.
While finishing under the red is a first for the 12-Hour, it’s far from uncommon in motorsport. The most famous case in Australian motorsport, was the infamous 1992 Bathurst 1000, when the already-damaged Nissan GT-R of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife slid into a multi-car pile-up at Forest Elbow – at which point officials immediately red flagged the race. On the podium, Richards and Skaife received a very parochial reception from the rowdy crowd – prompting the now famous outburst from the usually affable Richards.