MARC Cars Australia has proven its second generation racecars are here to stay after winning on debut at the 2018 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 hour; taking out the Invitational Class thanks to reigning class champions Keith Kassulke, Rod Salmon, and Will Brown.

Steering ‘AC/DC’– the first car built for the MARC II V8 program – the win not only saw the trio hold on to their Class I title, but marked the fifth straight year in which the MARC Cars platform had been victorious since debuting at the iconic Bathurst endurance race in 2014.

“It’s just phenomenal, really,” admitted team owner Ryan McLeod. “To run an event like this with seven cars in the race, 22 drivers, more than 70 crew, we had three brand new cars that had only even been tested literally a week before the race, and we went on to win, it’s a credit to ever member of the MARC Cars team. The cars reached their benchmark time of 2m06s the first time on the track, and albeit surviving the carnage today, we were there for the finish.

“Last year I was ecstatic about winning but this year I have no words, and especially for Keith. He was the first person to buy one of the first generation cars, he was the first to show interest in buying the new MARC II car, he’s been a part of everything we’ve done, and for everything he’s been through, to win the first trophy for the new car is just sensational,” concluded McLeod.

Sixty-five year old Kassulke has endured an extensive road to recovery over the last two years since suffering severe burns when his Ascari KZ1R GT3 caught fire at a Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit meeting in October 2015.

Kassulke returned to Mount Panorama last year where he won his first class victory at the Bathurst 12 Hour in his previous-owned MARC Focus V8 ‘Amaroo’, while this year he retained the same teammates to drive his newly-purchased MARC II V8 to the chequered flag.

“I’m sure people don’t realise what an enormous task it was to build three new cars that were just on paper a few months ago, to now being able to win a race, but the team is very professional and my car went all day without any trouble,” said Kassulke. “After four years of driving the Focus I was of course used to driving it, but these MARC II cars are just an amazing car. I’ve never driven a GT3 car but I think these are as close as I’ll get and I think it’s going to be good for me because it’s going to teach me more about my racecraft.”

While race results are still provisional, a total of four of the seven cars finished including the third-in-class #93 Envirotek MARC Mazda 3 V8 team of Grant Denyer, Garry Jacobson and 12 Hour rookie Tyler Everingham. Fourth in Class I was the #33 MARC Mazda 3 V8 of Rob Thomson, Zane Goddard and Drew Ridge. While the BMW M4 GT4 team of Daren Jorgensen, Cameron Lawrence, Brett Strom and Kuno Wittmer finished fourth in Çlass C after lengthy delays were needed to repair crash damage mid-race.

The team’s three DNFs came from the #96 Ford Focus V8 of John Goodacre, Peter Major and Jordan Love when Goodacre suffered crash damage on the warmup lap. The #67 MARC II V8 of Morgan Haber, Jake Camilleri and Aaron Cameron failed to finish after two major crash incidents, while the #54 MARC II V8 of Kyle Alford, Chad Parish and Paul Morris failed to finish due to a fire incident.

The new MARC II V8 chassis and suspension are built by PACE Innovations which also builds the Supercars chassis, plus  the internals of the transmission are the same as in a Supercar. Powered by the same 5.2-litre Coyote engine which features in the GT350 Mustang, the car is 100kg lighter than its predecessor, uses the same Albins transaxle as a Supercar, but comes with paddle shifts rather than a stick shift.

Despite the introduction of the MARC II V8s, McLeod added that his team will continue to build the first generation Ford and Mazda-bodied MARC V8 cars in its Queensland workshop to create a two-tier class within its motorsport program. Four more MARC II V8s are on their way to be completed, while the team is also looking to confirm international racing plans in the coming months.

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