COMPETING IN THE Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour is not just about gunning for outright victory – in fact, there are eight individual classes where the winner earns the right to stand atop the famous Bathurst podium.
It’s a class victory that is spurring on the team headed up by experienced racer Paul Freestone, who returns to contest the race in his Chevrolet Corvette Z06 this year to take on a pair of Lotus Exige racers in Class C – GT4.
Victorian driver Freestone – a two-time class winner in the Australian GT Championship – will team with Hayden Pullen and Barrie Nesbitt for the February 24-26 Event after a litany of dramas slowed their charge in the 2011 race.
Issues with the Corvette’s fuel system and unique transaxle design cost the team time in practice and the race last year, but Pullen – who will not only drive but is also preparing the car from his HP Racing premises – says the team is confident the ‘niggling’ problems have been exorcised from the American muscle car.
“As I stand here, now, I’m looking at a bare body shell so we’re going right back through the car to make sure it’s perfect,” Pullen, who has experience behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar, said.
“The niggling problems from last year have been fixed and the result is that this should really be a very good package for the race. Like any (production-based) car, the mechanicals are good up to the point when you start to push very hard but fundamentally it is a very good package.
“We had a fuel issue in practice last year, which cost us a lot of time and forced us to pull the entire drive line out. Once we had the problems fixed, the car ran well but it put us behind.
“The car is back to a shell and we’ll build it from there, so mechanically it will be good.”
Pullen said the Corvette’s driver line up added to the strength of their campaign.
“Paul (Freestone, car owner) is a very good driver and when he jumps into the ‘Vette, he’s right on the money – no one goes quicker than him in his car,” he exclaimed.
“Barrie Nesbitt has been racing an identical car in Australian GT and has been going well, so he’s a great addition. He’s got lots of endurance racing experience, and experience at Bathurst in particular, so between the three of us it’s a good team.
“I’ve built a lot of the sub-assembly components and the engine and gearbox so I know the car really well. It’s probably very handy that I know it so well and am driving it – I think building the car you race is helpful when you’re behind the wheel.”
After qualifying 13th last year, the Corvette finished 17th after several delays in pit lane – but promisingly set the 11th fastest lap of the race towards the end of the 12 Hour test when the car was running well.
The added depth to the pointy end of the grid this year hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm with the team still targeting the top ten as a realistic goal by race end.
“Going on car speed we won’t make the top ten,” Pullen said.
“However, there will be some attrition from the outright cars so if we have done the preparation as well as we think we have, then I can’t see why we won’t be close to the top ten by the end of the race. I think it’s a realistic goal. The class win is obviously also a priority for us.”
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