For the first time in Australian motorsport history, three legendary drivers who together boast a total of 14 Bathurst titles, have signed up with BMW Team SRM for the Bathurst 12 Hour, February 2017.
Tony Longhurst, Mark Skaife and Russell Ingall will share a BMW Team SRM M6 GT3 at next year’s Bathurst 12 Hour, bringing 10 Bathurst 1000 wins together in one entry for one of the world’s fastest growing endurance events.
BMW Team SRM boss Steve Richards adds to the silverware, bringing his own four Bathurst 1000 victories to the operation.
Supported by Castrol, Vodafone and The Boat Works the brand-new BMW M6 GT3 will complete the two-car effort for BMW Team SRM, signalling a determined return to Mount Panorama for the brand.
Owner of The Boat Works on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Longhurst spent his hiatus from motor racing competing on The Boat Works Extreme 40 in regattas such as Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island Race Weeks.
A two-time Bathurst 1000 winner, taking the title in 1988 before adding the second win alongside Skaife in 2001, Longhurst was also a class winner at Bathurst in a BMW M3 alongside Richards Snr in 1987.
He is a long-time driver under the BMW Motorsport banner, having raced BMWs in the Australian Touring Car Championship between 1984 and 1987, and then again between 1991 and 1994. He also won the 1994 Australian Super Touring Championship in a BMW 318i.
Most recently, Longhurst won the 2016 Silverstone Classic in the ST2 Class behind the wheel of the BMW 318i that guided him to the 1994 Championship.
Skaife is a six-time winner of The Great Race. One of those wins came alongside Longhurst (2001), while three others were shared with Jim Richards, father of BMW Team SRM boss and lead driver Steve Richards.
Ingall is a two-time Bathurst winner, ‘The Enforcer’ having conquered Mount Panorama twice alongside the great Larry Perkins (1995 and 1997).
Past rivalry will be put aside as this distinguished line-up bands together to conquer The Mountain one more time in February 2017
Testing has already began for the Bathurst Legends BMW M6 GT3, with a comprehensive preparation program to continue between now and the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour.
Tony Longhurst didn’t have to be asked twice to return to the sport that he loves. “It’s amazing the planning that’s gone in to get to this stage. The BMW M6 GT3 is just an amazing car.
“I started my career in 1984 with Jim Richards, and this will be my last time at The Mountain with Steve Richards. That’s pretty neat! And to do it with BMW, that’s very special for me. The best moments of my career have been in BMWs, but what a difference between the M6 GT3 and the 635 that I drove in 1984. It’s an amazing journey!”
He is realistic about the challenges of the iconic Bathurst 12 Hour and has wasted no time getting back to training behind the wheel. “It’s a long, long way. It’s a 12 Hour race, and it’s going to be a full field. For the next four months, we have to plan to be very comfortable in the car and make no mistakes. Twelve hours around Mount Panorama is a huge ask.”
Longhurst says he’s confident the team comprises the top drivers of their eras, all of whom have the steely determination of their experience to guide them.
“There’s no doubt we have the cream of the crop. We’ve got the right people around us, no egos these days. Just determination to conquer Bathurst once more.”
BMW Group Australia’s CEO Marc Werner states that the calibre of its driver line-up is a sign of exactly how serious BMW is taking its return to Mount Panorama.
“We are incredibly excited to be teaming up with some genuine Bathurst legends for the Bathurst 12 Hour, a race that is fast becoming not only one of the most prestigious in the country, but a must-win for teams and manufacturers around the world.
“Names like Richards and Longhurst have a great affiliation with BMW, not just at Bathurst, but in Australian motor racing in general. And to see former winners like Skaife and Longhurst driving together again, and former rivals like Skaife and Ingall joining forces, this really is fascinating story.
“We can’t wait to get BMW back to Bathurst next February.”