FRIDAY’S opening practice sessions for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour saw three teams end up on top of the four sessions, with Team GruppeM Racing ending the day fastest on their Mount Panorama debut.
After Italian driver Raffaelle Marciello went quickest for the Mercedes-AMG team in the day’s second, red flag shortened practice session, he again put the #999 Mann Filters machine to the top of the time sheets in the day’s last hit-out.
PRACTICE 4 RESULTS: Click here
A quick lap of 2:03.5882 halfway through the final 60 minute session was good enough to keep the #999 on top for the remainder of practice with Marciello downplaying the significance of being the fastest driver in two sessions – recognising the job at hand over the next two days.
“It’s still a long weekend, normally my team is pretty quick at any track we go,” he said.
“Everything looks good, the team is good, it’s just to stay safe until the race and the last hour.
“The track is always improving so you have to adjust yourself all the time. The guys who adapt the most will be at the front but with a line-up like this we cannot be slow.
“I know the car pretty well, I did 25 races last year. I have every confidence in the world. We are all three really quick, we just need to stay out of trouble.
“It’s the same tomorrow even if I am on Pole or Super Pole, Sunday evening counts.
“It’s more to put pressure on others than on us because we know where we are and what we can do. We know we can win, so do two or three teams there. We know where we are.”
Four different brands were represented across the top four positions today.
A late dash saw South African star Kelvin van der Linde push his Audi Sport Team Valvoline entry to second place late in the final session, just 0.0419s behind the GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3.
A flying lap from Augusto Farfus saw BMW Team Schnitzer grab third, while Ferrari outfit HubAuto Corsa were fourth thanks to the efforts of Nick Foster, Tim Slade and Nick Percat. Less than one second covered the nine fastest times today.
Friday’s first practice session was held only for those not of platinum or gold rank, running for half an hour to give the less experienced more track time.
Ferrari’s Mathias Lauda, driving the #51 machine for Spirit of Race, ended the session fastest after clocking a time of 2:06.8627 in the final moments of the session.
The end of the session did not mean the end of drama with the #3 Audi, driven by Pete Storey, ending up in the wall at the exit of The Chase. The Melbourne Performance Centre team assessed the damage and have removed the car from the 12 Hour, before either Gordon Shedden or Matt Neal could turn a wheel.
The war of attrition continued in the second session of the day with Tim Pappas crashing the #540 Black Swan Racing entry less than five minutes in. Launching backwards across The Chase, he struck the wall and wrote off the Porsche which won’t return to the track this weekend.
A second incident occurred soon after with the #51 car of Paul Dalla Lana, was struck entering the pit lane by Shane van Gisbergen in the #888 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The contact saw minimal damage to the Triple Eight entered car while the Spirit of Race machine didn’t return to the track all day.
Raffaele Marciello put in his fastest time relatively early in the session and it wasn’t eclipsed, though the time of 2:04.968 was almost 1.5 seconds down on the eventual fastest time of the day.
Practice three saw current Mount Panorama lap record holder Christopher Mies put the Audi Sport Team Valvoline on the top spot, his time of 2:04.5139 was the fastest of the day to that point while his co-driver Christopher Haase was the quickest driver in the middle sector of the circuit.
Audi nearly finished first in two sessions back to back with Kelvin van der Linde coming within an earshot of knocking off Marciello’s quickest time, going fastest of anyone throughout the day over the top of the mountain.
In the other classes, Richard Muscat was the fastest of the Porsche pack in Class B, his time of 2:08.5664 in the first session standing as the fastest in class all day.
Class C saw a day-long battle between the KTM’s and Ginetta’s with Dean Lillie ending up as the quickest, lapping Mount Panorama in a time of 2:17.3572 in practice three.
Steve Owen in the T2 Racing MARC car was the quickest of the Class I runners, putting in his class’s fastest time in the final session of the day with a 2:07.4402.
On-track action for the 12 Hour resumes at 8:35 tomorrow morning, providing one final chance for everyone to get their setups right before qualifying and the top ten shootout later in the day.
Words: Jordan Mulach