The Bathurst 12 Hour will kick off the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli season on Sunday. The Australian race launches the five-round series in style and is the perfect prelude to IntGTC's second event: the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Nine brands have committed to a full-season assault on the popular globe-trotting championship, meaning they will be on the grid at this summer's twice-around-the-clock classic. McLaren and Nissan are the only GT3 brands competing at Mount Panorama that have not signed up for the full IntGTC schedule, though the British marque is already slated for a Spa assault thanks to GT World Challenge Europe squad Optimum Motorsport.
Of the full-season entrants, Porsche is the brand to beat. The German marque took a masterful victory at year's Total 24 Hours of Spa, helping it to clinch an IntGTC's title double in 2020. It's Bathurst line-up features a pair of drivers who have previously triumphed in the Ardennes, with two-time winner Romain Dumas aboard the #12 Earl Bamber Motorsport car and 2014 victor Laurens Vanthoor at the wheel of the sister #1 EBM machine.
Audi's IntGTC contingent also has three Spa victories among its number, with double winner Markus Winkelhock in the #222 Team Valvoline entry and Christopher Hasse in the sister #2 car. The Ingolstadt marque's line-up also includes Chris Mies, who has taken four overall podiums in the Ardennes and two wins at Bathurst.
The Mercedes-AMG roster features Maxi Buhk – the youngest overall winner in almost a century of 24-hour racing at Spa – and fellow German Maxi Goetz, with whom he shared the victorious SLS GT3 in 2013. Also of note is the presence of the Black Falcon squad, which sat on pole for last year's race courtesy of Maro Engel.
BMW is the most successful brand in Total 24 Hours of Spa history and will be represented in IntGTC by 2018 race winner Walkenhorst Motorsport, while its Bathurst line-up also includes 2015 Spa winner Nick Catsburg. The Bavarian marque will expand to two factory-assisted cars fro Spa onwards, with further customer efforts expected for the Ardennes classic.
British brand Bentley will field a pair of full-season IntGTC cars courtesy of Team M-Sport, with as many as eight Continental GT3 entries expected at Spa. The British squad's driving talent includes Jules Gounon, who clinched Total 24 Hours of Spa victory in 2017 as part of the Sainteloc Audi squad. Fellow factory ace Maxime Soulet was runner-up that year and now shares the #8 Continental GT3 with his former rival.
There is significant interest in Lamborghini, which will launch its first full-season assault on IntGTC this term. Orange1 FFF Racing will run Andrea Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Dennis Lind, all of whom are proven winners at the wheel of a the Huracan GT3. The Italian brand will hope to begin the season strongly before seeking its maiden win in the Ardennes.
The Aston Martin brand will be chasing its first Spa win since 1948 this summer. R-Motorsport and Garage 59 will field two cars each at Bathurst, with the latter squad including the talents of 2016 Spa winner Maxime Martin.
Ferrari will be represented by a single 488 GT3 at Bathurst. That number that should expand significantly at the 24 Hours, with the Maranello marque's cars particularly popular among Pro-Am squads at the Belgian race. HubAuto Corsa will field its entry in Australia and could return to Spa this summer following its debut in 2019.
Finally, Honda will be represented by a lone NSX GT3 at Mount Panorama. Mario Farnbacher, Renger van Der Zande and Dane Cameron will drive this weekend, with Belgian ace Bertrand Baguette set to join the line-up at Spa. Honda enjoyed a superb run in the Ardennes last summer, finishing sixth after making continuous progress throughout the race.
With all nine full-season brands plus McLaren confirmed to compete at Spa, the number of marques is set to once again hit double figures in 2020, with further additions possible. The 2020 running of the Total 24 Hours of Spa will begin in earnest on Wednesday 22 July with the annual parade to Spa town centre. This is followed by practice and qualifying on Thursday and Friday (July 23/24), with the race playing out across Saturday and Sunday (July 25/26). Tickets are on general sale now.