THE opening practice sessions of this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour saw the #999 entry of Team GruppeM Racing top the timesheets in a crash-marred 90 minutes.
Italian driver Raffaele Marciello became the fastest driver of the day so far by posting a sub 2:05 soon in the second session, his time of 2:04.968 in the #999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Team GruppeM Racing being almost half a second clear of the next car.
The Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver’s lap was nearly two seconds faster than the quickest time in practice one, set by Mathias Lauda in the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari, with the Austrian clocking a 2:06.863 around Mount Panorama in the dying moments of his session.
While Lauda’s name popped up at the top of the time sheets at the end of the opening practice session, it was Joshua Burdon driving the #35 KCMG Nissan GT-R who led in the last ten minutes thanks to a lap of 2:06.935.
Anton de Pasquale in the #91 MARC Cars Australia entry jumped to the top of the order halfway through the session, leading the field overall in a Class I car, finishing the session in fifth overall thanks to a lap of 2:08.104.
Richard Muscat ended up on top of the three-car Class B group, his time of 2:08.566 was good enough for sixth overall in the #43 Ashley Seward Motorsport Porsche 911 Cup car and was the fasted Class B time from either session.
Class C saw Karl Reindler finish the session in first in his #55 Ginetta, a lap of 2:18.357 putting him over a full second quicker than the next car, Brett Strom, in a BMW M4 GT4.
The opening session’s only incident occurred after the session had ended with Pete Storey in the #3 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8, ending up hitting the wall at the exit of The Chase which will slightly delay the start of the day’s second practice session.
Things went south in practice two for the opening session’s fastest car as Paul Dalla Lana ended up in the fence near pit entry due to contact with the #888 Mercedes-Benz GT3 of Shane van Gisbergen.
As the #51 Ferrari of Dalla Lana approached the pits, 2016 winner van Gisbergen made contact with the rear of the Ferrari, sending him into the inside wall and bringing out a red flag in the session.
It was the second red flag to come out in the 60 minute session where running was delayed due to a accident less than five minutes in involving Tim Pappas, driving the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911.
Pappas missed the gravel traps as he spun off at The Chase, going in backwards to the concrete wall outside the Rydges hotel, tearing the back of the Porsche off as a small fire broke out though marshals were quickly on the scene to put it out and assist him out of the car.
He was taken first to the medical centre and then a local hospital for checks, however was conscious when removed from the car.
Two more practice sessions will be run for the 12 Hour today head of qualifying and the top ten shootout tomorrow.
Words: Jordan Mulach