Jules Gounon survived a late-race tire puncture and an ongoing threat of rain to give Bentley their first victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour at Mount Panorama Sunday afternoon.
Gounon and co-drivers Maxime Soulet and Jordan Pepper dominated nearly the entire event, with the No. 7 Continental leading at both the race’s half and three-quarter marks.
While it appeared that Gounon was comfortably in control of the race with just over an hour remaining, a right-rear tire puncture sent the Frenchman into the pits.
Despite the tire mishap, Gounon was able to maintain his lead and finish 37 seconds ahead of the No. 999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Raffele Marciello.
Bentley wins at Bathurst!@JulesGounon brings the #7 he shares with @jordanpepper46 and @SouletMaxime across the line to claim @BentleyRacing's first-ever #IntGTC victory. #B12Hr | #IntGTC 🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/GsXiUZN3BU
— Intercontinental GT Challenge (@IntercontGTC) February 2, 2020
However, Marciello was assessed a 30-second penalty for his car not being turned off during its final pit stop, and the No. 60 59Racing McLaren 720S GT3 of Tom Blomqvist, Alvaro Parente and Ben Barnicoat was promoted up to second place.
The No. 888 Mercedes of Shane van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup and Maximilian Goetz finished third.
Sunday’s win is the first marquee endurance race victory for Bentley since the manufacturer’s debut in GT racing in 2013.
Rolex 24 winners come up short
While 23 of the drivers in Sunday’s race competed in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona a week prior, none were able to win to reach victory lane at Mount Panorama.
Though Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande were part of Wayne Taylor Racing’s overall victory at Daytona seven days earlier, both drivers had to settle for less-than-stellar finishes down under.
The No. 76 R-Motorsport entry Dixon shared with Rick Kelly and Jake Dennis finished 16th overall, while electrical issues prevented van der Zande from completing the entire race.
Other Rolex 24 competitors who were in Sunday’s race included Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, who along with Craig Lowndes, co-drove the No. 1 Earl Bamber Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R.