The management of the Bathurst 12 Hour is confident next year's event could attract record international entries after a successful reconnaissance trip to the Spa 24 hour event in Belgium this week.
Event Director Shane Rudzis and Motorsport Operations Manager Paul Martin have been on the ground meeting with all the sport's major stakeholders in an effort to get the annual Australian GT classic back to its pre-COVID heights.
The Bathurst 12 Hour gained serious international attention in 2016 when it became the inaugural race of the newly formed Intercontinental GT Challenge.
It continued to grow in stature over the following years before COVID forced the 2021 to be cancelled.
Despite the lingering COVID still having some negative impact, the race has clawed its way back in the last couple of years.
The feedback from the sport's major players in Spa indiates record numbers could be on the cards in 2024, according to Rudzis.
“This trip has really given us the opportunity to engage with all the manufacturers, suppliers and teams in one place and well ahead of time for the 2024 season,” said Rudzis.
“The reception we have received has been incredibly encouraging and it all points towards us getting back to record international entries.
“As the world gets back to some sort of ‘normal' and things like international travel become affordable again, it is going to open up opportunities for us.
“We will again be the opening round of the championship and our dates next year [February 16-18] will make the Bathusrt 12 Hour attractive again for so many international teams.
“The people who have been to the 12 Hour love the event and almost all of the teams we have spoken to that have not been, consider it a “bucket list”, “must do” event.
“I think being here at Spa has really put the 12 Hour back on the radar.”
Martin was equally encouraged by the feedback from those involved on the technical side of the sport.
“Obviously COVID was a big interruption for us, but we have managed to punch our way back the last couple of years,” said Martin.
“We are continually having on-going conversations with the teams and manufacturers about the rules and procedures and they are really engaged in that.
“When you come to a place like this [Spa] and see so many Australians either driving or associated with teams, it provides confidence about our country's position in GT racing on the world stage.
“The Bathurst 12 Hour is a major part of that.”
A total of 38 nationalities are represented on this week's Spa 24 hour entry list.
As has typically been the case, Germany leads the way with 33 drivers, followed by France (28) and Great Britain (27).
Kenny Habul and Chaz Mostert lead a list of nine Australians in the race including Stephen and Brendan Grove, while Antone De Pasquale will share the Grove Racing Porsche with Kiwi Earl Bamber in the Bronze class.