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Jules Gounon leads Sun Energy to back-to-back triumph in Bathurst 12 Hour race

Kenny Habul, Jules Gounon and Lucas Stolz have won a thrilling Bathurst 12 Hour.

Kenny Habul, Jules Gounon and Lucas Stolz have won a thrilling Bathurst 12 Hour. Photo: AAP

Jules Gounon has become the first driver to win three Bathurst 12-hour races after guiding home the Sun Energy 1 Mercedes AMG GT3 to back-to-back wins at Mount Panorama.

The Frenchman carried his winning form from the Daytona 24 hour GTD Pro class last weekend to pip Queenslander Matt Campbell in the Manthey EMA Porsche entry and Daytona teammate, Maro Engel in Gruppe M Racing Mercedes, to write himself into Mount Panorama history books.

Alongside Kenny Habul and Luca Stolz, who were victorious in 2022, Gounon navigated a dramatic close around the Bathurst circuit to fend off a late push by Campbell on fresher tyres and seal victory after 323 laps and a record 2006 kilometres of racing.

Heading into the final 120 minutes of Sunday’s race, three cars remained in contention with Raffaele Marciello in the Gruppe M Mercdes in front, Campbell in second and Stolz third.

All three cars required one last stop and Marciello was the first in, Engel replacing him and Campbell following suit into pit lane.

Engel would depart the pits first on new tyres and his stop was covered by then leader Gounon for his final fuel stop.

The race was on and just like in 2022, Engel would chase Gounon to the finish.

He was quickly within less than a second of the lead and with 46 minutes remaining, Engel made his move.

A brave lunge down the inside at The Chase ended with Engel hitting the rear side of Gounon and spinning him off the track.

He was assessed a pit lane drive through penalty by Motorsport Australia race officials, which he eventually took with 35 minutes remaining, returning to the field in third.

Only nine seconds covered the top three as the race entered its final minutes but Campbell’s late push wasn’t enough as Gounon held on for a Mount Panorama three-peat, with the podium separated by just 1.4 seconds.

“These guys, they carried the car, they did the bulk of the driving, and Luca was incredible,” Habul told reporters.

“It was our day and really I just think at the end there it was so difficult and Jules made the difference.”

Gounon said the record of three wins wasn’t on his mind heading into Sunday’s race due to the complexity of the Bathurst track.

“I don’t think about the record or anything, this place is so humble,” he said.

“In this place when you are not in a good day … immediately this place makes you humble.

“That’s what we love about this place: you need to respect the track, the history when you drive flat out to the wall with Maro hunting you down or Matty Campbell … it’s a difficult feeling.”

With the win in front of a record 53,446 crowd over three days at Mount Panorama, Mercedes are now tied with Audi for three victories at Bathurst in the GT era.

-AAP

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