The new Bathurst 12 Hour rule everyone is talking about

Part of the Bathurst 12 Hours pitch in the pit lane. Photo: Ross Gibb

There’s a new safety car rule and it’s the talk of the town at the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hours this weekend.

All lapped cars will receive a free pass under Safety Car conditions for this year’s edition of the Australian International Enduro.

The introduction of wave-by, colloquially known as “Lucky Dog”, is designed to keep as many Class A GT3 competitors in contention as possible for absolute honours.

Lapped cars will be waved by Conrod Straight on the same lap where the race will turn green again, meaning they have officially reclaimed the lap they lost.

By then these cars are back on the lead lap, or one lap down, but would need another safety car to move up the field and back into contention for position.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s 12-hour endurance competition, teams and drivers are considering how to maximize the opportunity.

“They will indeed get a third to half a lap up, but they have to catch the train,” Audi Sport Customer Racing Australia boss Troy Russell told Speedcafe.com.

“It’s not a hundred percent free kick, but it’s definitely a good thing; it takes the pressure off the Ams.

“The idea is we come in at the 9th or 10th hour and we have 10 cars in the lead lap and all the Ams have run their course, the pros come in and we have a race to the end.”

For some drivers, feelings are mixed about the ripple effects of being restless.

Stephen Grove, team owner and Bronze-rated driver in Grove Racing’s #4 Porsche 911 GT3 R, thinks we could see a pinch point when the pro drivers catch the restless Ams later.

“It’s a good way to get those run-in cars off the train and get them going,” Grove said.

“From a Pro-Am standpoint, the one thing you really have to be careful about…you wouldn’t want the last few pro guys in a one-to-10 train trying to win the race with all the pros catch up to you at the top.

“If you’re waved through and they catch you up there, how do you let them all pass?”

“Because if one of them passes they have a massive advantage up to Conrod Straight. I understand the predicament because you really want to get rid of run-in cars.

Grove said to benefit from the surge, a second safety car soon after would be essential to catch up with the lead lap train.

“You actually need two security cars because if you get passed you’ll never take the train to where you want to go,” he added.

“If we get to the top of the hill and they go over the start/finish line, you’ll never catch the lead lap train.

“So you need another safety car to get everyone together, so it’s really a two safety car process.”

While the overwhelming feeling is that the new rule is a good thing, those who have experienced it say it could be both positive and negative.

The most recent winner of the 12 Hours of Bathurst, Jules Gounon, who is driving a Mercedes-AMG GT3 this year, shared his experience with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship wave-by.

“With the wave-by, in the past you really had to stay on the lead lap, but now I don’t know how it’s going to be because even if you’re one lap down, there’s Safety Car, you have your knees back,” Gounon said.

“I don’t know if it’s worth taking so many risks at the start, just going one lap down and then you have the wave and you’re back in the game.

“Before in 2018, I remember we had a puncture and we lost a lap and the race was dead.

“You are one lap away, the race is over. In IMSA they have this rule on the wave so it’s good for the show because it always brings people back into contention.

“But sometimes you have a perfect race and you get beaten by someone who had a problem, but that’s the way it is.”

Either way, only time will tell if the “Lucky Dog” rule is a success.

Sunday’s 12 Hours of Bathurst kicks off at 05:15 local time/AEST with live coverage in Australia on Seven Network and Fox Sports.

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