Mt. Panorama is a course which intimidates even the most experienced racing drivers. The variety of corners, incredibly fast straights and unforgiving nature make it a real challenge dissimilar to many of today’s greener, cleaner and safer road courses.
Unlike so many modern tracks, the proximity to the walls make it particularly dangerous, and even a slight mistake can be costly. Fans of Australian motorsport know this all too well, including one young driver who just established the quickest lap around this demanding course.
This slightly-crazy fellow goes by the name of Shane Van Gisbergen. The New Zealander competes full-time in the V8 Supercars series and made his foray into GT racing in 2013, embarking with McLaren and driving the then-current 12C-GT3. This year, the madman made an indelible mark on motorsport with an astonishing 2:01.28 lap through the sinuous and steep racetrack at the 2016 Bathurst 12 Hour.
As we ride alongside, it becomes obvious that Van Gisbergen’s McLaren 650S GT3 is well-balanced. In every corner, the car is firmly planted, composed and predictable — exactly what one wants when pushing the envelope. This performance is thanks to a combination of considerable mechanical and aerodynamic grip.
The track is 52mm wider than that of the outgoing 12C GT3, allowing for wider rubber, and the revised aero package allows for the quicker corners to be covered at outrageous speeds. Just look at the way the car behaves when being thrashed on top of the hill. Not once does it break away, writhe and spin its tires. Instead, the car simply hooks up and fires itself down the road.
Additionally, the car receives tougher suspension components, lightweight aluminum wheels, a new six-speed sequential gearbox and new brakes. When analyzing the immense performance and drivability of the newest Macca GT racer, it’s not too surprising that it blitzed the outgoing record. That doesn’t, however, take anything away from the ballsy, possessed drive from the talented Kiwi who now owns the fastest lap at Mt. Panorama.