Audi Sport Team Valvoline has eclipsed the field ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying for the Bathurst 12 Hour with Dries Vanthoor going quickest in the #2 Audi R8 LMS GT3 this morning.
The 2018 race winner was fastest with a late lap in the delayed, hour-long outing which was shortened thanks to a late incident, allowing the Belgian’s time to stand at the top as the field prepared for fast runs.
Not even a minute had passed before the red flag came out thanks to a few kangaroos finding their way onto the circuit, holding up practice while the locals searched for a way to hop back into the bush.
After nearly half an hour in the pits, the drivers and cars got back on track and up to speed early on with the session being confirmed to run to the full hour length despite the delay.
Marco Mapelli set the fastest lap of the weekend so far only a quarter of the way through practice, going around Mount Panorama in 2:03.5490 aboard the #63 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, carrying on the form of naturally aspirated cars from Friday.
Contact between the #27 Hub Auto Corsa entry driven by Marcos Gomes and the #777 Triple Eight car of Sam Shahin resulted in the latter being spun at the exit of The Chase after the Ferrari 488 GT3 and Mercedes AMG GT3 overlapped at the apex.
Formula 2 star Luca Ghiotto was fortunate not to end his session early after running wide at McPhillamy Park, dropping the right two wheels of his #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 into the dirt, recovering to fight another day.
Mapelli’s time towards the start of the session kept at the top as the clocked ticked down towards zero with no other cars able to get down into the 2:03 range, a majority of the field electing to do race rather than qualifying runs for most of the 60 minutes.
With just five minutes remaining, the Lamborghini’s time was finally eclipsed byVanthoor in the #2 Audi R8, just a tenth quicker with his time of 2:03.4430.
A late red flag ensured Vanthoor ended the session on top after two simultaneous incidents at different parts of the track brought running to a halt.
The #8 Bentley Continental GT3 of Oliver Jarvis looked to have a mechanical failure at the end of Conrod Straight into the Chase, hitting the tyre wall on the exit of the section in similar fashion to Tim Pappas last year.
At nearly the same time, Daniel Serra went off at McPhillamy Park in the #27 Ferrari, getting light most of the way through the corner and ending up in the tyre barrier.
With practice not restarting, Vanthoor ended it on top followed by the time set by Mapelli second, getting himself between two Audi’s as the #222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline car finished third.
Ben Barker was the fastest of the Porsche drivers in fourth, driving the #4 Grove Racing 911 R while the #34 Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3 improved massively from Friday to end up fifth, the fastest of the turbo machines.
Qualifying begins at 12:40pm local time.
Words: Jordan Mulach