The #911 entry of Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet and Patrick Pilet has taken the first Bathurst pole position for Porsche after the local hero converted provisional pole to the real thing for tomorrow’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Rolling out as the last driver on track, 2019 12 Hour champion Campbell flew the new 911 GT3 R around the Mount Panorama Circuit to come home with a comfortable margin and control tomorrow’s race start.
With the summer sun still beating down on the track, pace was expected to be down on the day’s earlier sessions as the top ten drivers were sent out, one by one to finalise their starting positions for tomorrow.
Shane van Gisbergen was the first driver to roll out aboard the #888 Mercedes AMG GT3, looking for his second Allan Simonsen Trophy and setting a benchmark lap time of 2:04.3560 for the next nine cars to chase after.
After provisionally qualifying ninth in the #63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Marco Mapelli set out to try and eclipse the Triple Eight entry’s time, ending up just behind the Kiwi after dropping over three-tenths in the first sector which couldn’t be recovered.
Last year’s unofficial pole-sitter Jake Dennis took to the track in the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin, the sole remaining Vantage AMR GT3 after the team’s other car was written off in a qualifying incident.
Losing time across every sector, Dennis couldn’t repeat his 2019 efforts, ending up just behind Mapelli as van Gisbergen remained on top.
Next the remaining KCMG Nissan GTR Nismo GT3 took off around Mount Panorama in the hands of JP De Oliveira, the Bathurst rookie going faster than anyone through the first sector and holding that advantage to go post a 2:03.9403, taking provisional pole for the time being.
South African ace Kelvin van der Linde was next to set off in hot pursuit of the pole position, dropping six-tenths in the first sector but clawing it back over the top of the mountain to drop into second place at the completion of the lap.
Previous polesitter Laurens Vanthoor strapped himself into the #1 Earl Bamber Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, targeting a 2:03 to try and eclipse the Nissan’s pole time.
A solid first sector and rocket time over the top meant he was close but not close enough, missing out on provisional pole by just 0.0426, still a few tenths clear over the Audi behind.
After starting from pole in 2019, Raffaele Marciello set out in the #999 Mercedes AMG GT3 to hunt for another front row start, still searching for a first win at Mount Panorama.
Just like Vanthoor, Marciello was slightly down in the first sector but clawed it back to be even in the middle, winding the Mercedes up down Conrod Straight to end up on provisional pole, setting a 2:03.8219 for the top spot.
Former race winner Alvaro Parente took the McLaren 720S through to its shootout berth by provisionally qualifying third, channelling the speed which took him to the win in 2016 and putting the #60 entry onto pole by less than a tenth of a second.
Inaugural Allan Simonsen Trophy winner Maro Engel was the penultimate driver on track in the #77 Craft Bamboo Black Falcon AMG, hauling the car into the shootout after a suspension failure meant most of their Friday was spent in the garage.
Sticking within a tenth of the provisional pole time throughout the lap, Engel ran too deep into the final corner and could only manage fifth between Vanthoor and van der Linde with only one car left to run.
Defending race winner Campbell returned to Mount Panorama with confidence after his popular home win last year, dragging the #911 Porsche to pole in qualifying before setting out to replicate the effort in the shootout.
Hustling the new spec GT3 R through the first sector, he was nearly four tenths up on Parente and kept flying across the top, having the best part of a second margin as he closed the lap.
Coming across the line in 2:03.5554, Campbell in the last sector but it was still good enough for pole, meaning the defending champion will start tomorrow’s race from the prime spot to go back-to-back.
The #911 will start from pole in Porsche’s first at Bathurst while the #60 McLaren will line up alongside. GruppeM Racing’s #999 entry and the remaining #18 KCMG car will complete the second row with the #1 Porsche, #77 Mercedes, #222 Audi, #888 Mercedes, #63 Lamborghini and #76 Aston Martin round out the top ten.
Tomorrow’s 12 hour long race will begin at 5:45am local time with the #911 car leading the pack to the green flag.
Words: Jordan Mulach