This weekend the eyes of the motorsport world are fully focused on Daytona for the famous 24 hour race, but this time next week a half a world away, the New South Wales regional city of Bathurst will become the epicentre of the racing world with the annual Bathurst 12 Hour race.
This year’s race will be the biggest ever and the line up of champion drivers in factory supported cars reads like a who’s who of international sportscar racing.
BMW will challenge the famous mountain circuit with an impressive line up of superstars from both their own international line up, as well as some names familiar to fans at Mount Panorama.
Former Bathurst 1000 winners Mark Skiafe, Russel Ingall and Tony Longhurst have joined forces and will be joined by DTM star and ex F1 driver Timo Glock.
Fellow BMW factory driver Marco Wittmann will join Steve Richards and Mark Winterbottom, also in a BMW M6.
Also aboard a BMW will be Chaz Mostert he’ll drive with Australian GT regulars Morgan Haber and Max Twigg.
Supercar series veteren Garth Tander will join a host of factory Audi drivers as part of the two-car JAMEC-PEM racing squad.
Tander will be joined by works Audi drivers Christoper Mies and Christoper Haase are are expected to start as onre of the favourites for the event.
Mies is a two-time Bathurst 12 Hour winner, in 2011 and 2012 with Audi, while Haase also has several 12-hour starts to his credit.
The second JAMEC-PEM car will also be filled with factory Audi talent, with former Formula One driver Markus Winkelhock alongside Frank Stippler and the impressively fast Dutch young driver Robert Frijns.
Audi Sport Customer Racing Australia, run by Melbourne Performance Centre, will run a fleet of Audi’s R8 LMS model in the race.
Lee Holdsworth would join long time Carrera Cup racer Marc Cini and Dean Fiore in the Hallmarc Property group entry.
Nissan Motorsport will return to the mountain with a brand-new Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
Michael Caruso is teamed with popular Japanese driver Katsumasa Chiyo and Alex Buncombe in the 12 Hour, while Todd Kelly will drive the car that finished second last year alongside Jann Mardenborough and 2015 winner Florian Strauss.
Ferrari has only one enterent in the race, but what an entry it is. Ferrari specialist Toni Villander will be joined by 2014 race winner and Australia’s most popular driver Craig Lowndes alongside six time Australian Supercar Champion Jamie Whincup making his Bathurst 12 Hour debut.
Apart from the impressive driving line up, the car will also benefit from some technical assistance from Triple Eight Racing.
Whincup’s entry came as something of a surprise as he had previously shown little interest in taking part in the race.
“I’ve been patient waiting for the right opportunity and feel I’ve found it with the Maranello/Triple Eight combination.
“I’m excited to be teaming up with Craig again after more than six years and also look forward to learning from Toni on how to drive a left-hand drive, high downforce, turbo car fast.” he said.
Defending 12-hour champion Shane van Gisbergen has left the Tekno Racing McLaren team and will join Scott Taylor Motorsport, with Craig Baird and Maro Engel driving in a Mercedes.
Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, who are normally seen behind the wheel of an Aston Martin in the FIA WEC, have also joined the silver arrow brigade in a Pro-Am class entry.
David Reynolds will be back, but not with Erebus who sadly will not be represented in the race this year.
The Melbourne driver has joined with Mark Griffith and Dominic Storey in their AMG SLS
As revealed on In Pit Lane earlier in 2016, Porsche are making a major push towards a victory on the mountain.
It’s impressive line up of drivers is headed by Le Mans winner Earl Bamber who will have fellow internationals Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor alongside in the Walkinshaw Racing 911 GT-R.
The team will also field the experienced pair of John Martin and Liam Talbot driving with Davashen Padayachee in the GT-Am class.
Aston Martin will be represented by the local Miedecke Stone Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage of George Miedecke, Ash Walsh and Tony Bates.
Mount Panorama specialist Dean Canto returns to the 12 hour, this time in a Lamborghini Huracan for the Melbourne based Trofeo Motorsport team.
Trofeo, who had raced both Corvettes and a Ferrari in the past will be Lamborghini’s main hope in the race, with the marque having no representation in the Pro class. Kiwi Racing will also be running a Lamborghini in the GT3 Am class.
And that list is by no means exhaustive, with the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour boasting one of the most impressive driver line ups ever seen in Australia.
The race will start next Sunday at 5:45 with live and fre to air coverage right across Australia on 7Mate.
International viewers can watch the live stream via the event’s website with audio coverage as usual by the team at Radio Le Mans.