Supercars 2023: Heavy crash ends 12-hour practice session at Bathurst

A driver remained trapped in his car for several minutes after a high-speed crash at the end of the Conrod Straight blocked practice for the Bathurst 12 Hours at Mount Panoroma.

A driver was lucky enough to evade a horrific high-speed accident that left his car off the ground on all four wheels and left it upside down in the sand to prematurely end practice at the Bathurst 12 Hours at Mount Panorama.

Keith Kassulke, driving the No. 52 Marc II V8 car, was trapped in his wrecked vehicle for several minutes after going off the road at The Chase at the end of the Conrod Straight, the circuit’s fastest point.

Kassulke crashed into the tire barriers and finally came to a standstill with extensive front damage in the sand trap.

Replays showed the car cornering at high speed at the bottom of the Conrod Straight and launching with all four wheels off the ground over the apex lip and into the sand trap with the front wheels high in the air.

Officials said Kassulke was able to communicate with rescue crews before getting out of the car.

He was examined by medical officials and cleared of serious injuries.

“Following his accident in the fourth practice session of the LIQUI MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour, MARC Cars Australia driver Keith Kassulke was taken to the Circuit Medical Center for an examination,” says a statement from the race management.

“Keith was conscious at all times, communicated with the rescue teams and suffered no major injuries.

“More information will follow as soon as it becomes available.

“The session was red flagged and not restarted due to damage to the tire wall after the impact.

“At this point in time, the cause of the accident has not yet been determined.”

The remainder of the practice was abandoned due to the damage to the barrier from the impact.

Rossi shows his debut at Bathurst

Valentino Rossi shocked motorsport fans on Friday by winning his first practice session at the Bathurst 12 Hours.

The nine-time motorcycle world champion and six-time winner of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix drives for BMW at Mount Panorama.

Rossi’s switch from two to four wheels got off to a flying start.

After standing on the podium at the Dubai 24 Hours in January, Rossi sprinted out of the starting blocks with fast lap times in his first session on the hill, finishing a co-driver practice session with a 2:05.44 track lap.

Rossi said Bathurst was “very impressive” and “something different” from European circuits.

“Mount Panorama is one of the mythical routes,” said Rossi.

“It’s emotional when you see the track for the first time.”

The motorcycling legend said the track had little room for error, making it more suitable for cars than bikes.

“When you’re driving, you’re scared because it’s fast and the wall is there,” Rossi said.

“It’s very difficult, very technical, but it’s also fun to ride, especially the fast part at the top of the mountain.

“Every lap you want to drive a little more [speed]but it is difficult.

“You have to take a bit of leeway because if you make a mistake, that’s a big problem.”

The Italian said the BMW M4 GT3 is a different kind of challenge than racing on two wheels.

“The difference is that at Phillip Island you have a lot of space and you don’t have walls,” said Rossi.

“I think MotoGP at Phillip Island is a little bit more [difficult] than the M4 here at Mount Panorama. But we are not there yet [apart].

“You have a lot of adrenaline when you drive, you have to try to do everything well without making mistakes.

“With a bike you’re outside, so you feel more – the speed.

“In some ways it’s different, but in other ways it’s very similar.”

Sporting his favorite number 46 on his white BMW, Rossi was within just 0.04 seconds behind teammates Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin, pro riders who have been on the global stage for more than a decade.

Manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche have sent top driving talent to the 12 Hours of Bathurst, the opening race of the Intercontinental GT Challenge series.

Australian ace Matt Campbell joined more than a dozen drivers from last weekend’s 24 Hours of Daytona to get on the grid.

Several Supercars stars will challenge the world’s best GT drivers, including Bathurst winners such as Shane van Gisbergen, Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup, David Reynolds and Chaz Mostert.

Mostert set the pace in the first practice session for professional drivers with a performance of 2:04.08, suggesting Audi could be the manufacturer to beat.

But Mercedes has more cars in the running than any other team, including two prepared by Triple Eight Race Engineering, which dominated Supercars racing last year.

Triple Eight team principal Jamie Whincup said the 12 Hours of Bathurst was an important race for his team.

“This is one of the big international events of the year,” said Whincup.

“We absolutely have our entire crew here this weekend to make sure we get the best possible result.”


Callum Dick

A who’s who of Australian motorsport legends drew huge crowds to the traditional city ahead of the 12 Hours of Bathurst, but it was the presence of an Italian living legend that lined the streets of fans on Thursday.

Nine-time Moto GP World Champion Valentino Rossi is back Down Under and this time has traded in his bike for a BMW M4GT3 as part of Team WRT’s Class A Pro entry at the annual Enduro event.

As the owner of a record eight MotoGP victories at Phillip Island, Rossi enjoys a loyal following in Australia and welcomed the opportunity to contribute to his legacy at Mount Panorama this weekend.

“I’ve spent a long, long time in Australia (throughout) my life, a lot of time at Phillip Island for MotoGP. The fans are very supportive of motorsport and it’s always a great feeling,” said Rossi.

“My first time in Bathurst will be very different but the place looks amazing. It’s incredible.

“I’ve only ever raced on the sim (racing simulator)…it’s an incredible track. All the drivers say it’s very nice too, so we’ll wait (to) try the car tomorrow.”

Supercars legends Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup also joined the track to head into town ahead of a Class A Pro Am head-to-head between the two former teammates.

Lowndes will be driving the #222 Mercedes AMG GT3 this weekend alongside Alex Davison, Geoff Emery and Scott Taylor.

“This event is growing and growing and of course with Covid we couldn’t get the International (Bathurst competitors) last year – they’re back (this year),” beamed Lowndes.

“I think if we can stay out of trouble on Sunday the four of us will have a great run.

“If we can be on the podium at the end of the day, that’s something very special for us.”

Whincup is part of a three-man combination in the #99 Mercedes GT3 with Richie Stanaway and Prince Jefri Ibrahim.

His Triple Eight Supercars drivers Broc Feeney and Shane van Gisbergen will join Maximillian Götz in the aptly numbered 888 GT3 in the Class A Pro category.

“There’s the three-hour, the six-hour, the 12-hour, and of course the 1000 o’clock, so we’re here pretty often these days,” Whincup said.

“This is one of the big international events of the year (and) while we keep an eye on our Supercars program and try to build two Gen3 cars for the track, we have absolutely our entire crew here this weekend to make them sure that we achieve the best possible result.

“It’s a fantastic part of our sport (that) you can retire full-time and not just go cold… fantastic for people like me who do five or six events a year and can relax.

“I really enjoy that kind of thing. I love driving, I’ve been driving since I was seven years old so I’m really looking forward to getting in the car this weekend.

“The (sunny) weather is a big factor, but Valentino Rossi is also a big factor (for fan involvement), we don’t want to deny that. So yes, all of these things have resulted in a fantastic turnout and hopefully everyone is having a fantastic weekend.”

Friday’s schedule features the first practice sessions ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session before the 12 Hours of Bathurst gets underway in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Supercars Shakedown: Gen3 Era Begins “Flawless”

The first Gen3 Supercars shakedown is in the books after Todd Hazelwood, recruited by the Blanchard Racing Team, took a lap around Winton in the new-look Cooldrive Ford Mustang on Wednesday.

After delays in the supply chain process that caused homologation teams Dick Johnson Racing and Triple Eight to cancel scheduled testing earlier this week, BRT stepped up for the first shakedown of the Gen3 era.

“It’s a very important day for our small team to be the first team to bring the Gen3 car to market,” team principal Tim Blanchard told News Corp.

“Apart from a few start-up difficulties that were to be expected, the day went perfectly. It shows that the car is not glued together but assembled correctly.”

Blanchard said the lengthy development and construction process “definitely made the project a lot more difficult”, but after Wednesday’s outing the team was confident the team would be ready for the season opener in Newcastle on March 10-12.

“I think the parts supply issues are well documented — no matter what industry you’re in (right now), there are supply chain issues,” Blanchard said

“(But) we’re a small, nimble team and I think we planned that pretty well.

“The main thing today was to get the car out, rack up miles and see what areas the car needed tuning and work on. Next week we can start working on the performance.

“It’s a one car team and we’re still learning and growing as a team so we’re realistic but confident that we did our best to get a good result (come Newcastle),” he added.

Hazelwood’s early stint confirmed the general driver consensus from the pre-season testing sessions – the Gen3 cars will be a very different beast than their predecessors.

“The data from the prototype test showed that these cars are much more aggressive in terms of tire wear and we saw that today which will make for some interesting racing,” said Blanchard.

“Like anyone who has driven these cars, they have found that the way it reacts to the tires and moves is very different than last year’s cars.

“We worked pretty hard and put in many hours to do everything possible to minimize the impact on the project.

“We haven’t had any major issues so we couldn’t be happier.”

The bulk of the Supercars teams are expected to complete their first Gen3 rounds over the next two weeks, with each team lined up for an all-in test at Sydney Motorsport Park on February 22nd.

Originally published as Supercars 2023: Major Crash halts Bathurst 12-hour practice Supercars 2023: Heavy crash ends 12-hour practice session at Bathurst

Ryan Sederquist

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