Matt Campbell and Porsche on provisional pole after crash-shortened qualifying session

Reigning Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour champion Matt Campbell will roll out last in this afternoon’s Top Ten Shootout after qualifying on provisional pole in a crash-heavy qualifying session at Mount Panorama.

The #911 Absolute Racing Porsche GT3 R was able to top the timesheets thanks to a quick, late lap from the Australian, mastering the hot and tricky conditions to go quickest in the sprint session.

Large crashes throughout qualifying broke up and marred the running, ultimately shortening the session and leaving a few cars high and dry as they banked on having a few more minutes to have one final crack at the shootout.

After the sun baked down on the circuit all day long, slight cloud cover gave some level of reprieve early on in the 30 minute long session, forcing the teams and drivers to go hard early.

Kelvin van der Linde just about matched the previous session’s pace on his first true flying lap, a 2:03.6858 in his #222 Audi R8 LMS GT3 getting close to the session-topping time set by Raffalele Marciello in the opening qualifying outing.

Less than ten minutes in and the session came to a halt with the #62 R-Motorsport car driven by Marvin Kirchhoefer ending up in the wall hard at on the approach to McPhillamy Park.

The German went into the wall dipping through the Metal Grate, hitting the concrete barrier at between Sulman Park and McPhillamy backwards and rolling the Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3, coming to a rest in the middle of the circuit.

Kirchhoefer was able to get out of the car with assistance from his fellow competitors and officials while the Aston was recovered, undoubtedly being scratched from tomorrow’s race with Luca Ghiotto and Oliver Caldwell missing out on a start.

The clock started ticking down again after the long delay to recover the stricken #62 car with just over 20 minutes remaining, van der Linde still sitting at the top of the order as the sun started to beat down on the circuit.

Just under a tenth of a second split the top three with a touch over ten minutes left to run, the #222 leading the way but with the #18 KCMG Nissan GTR Nismo GT3 of JP De Oliveira and Marciello’s #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 closely behind.

Marciello was able to crack the top spot on his next attempt, a 2:03.6541 less than half a tenth ahead of van der Linde as one second split the top 16 cars in the closing minutes of the session.

Reigning champion Matt Campbell stamped his authority on the field by going from 16th in the #911 Porsche GT3 R to provisional pole with a time of 2:03.4336, two-tenths up on Marciello’s Merc while Jake Dennis in the #62 Aston sat on the bubble of the top ten.

While Campbell parked the leading Porsche, the rest of the field circulated on their final laps of the session, all looking to have a crack at the shootout later in the day.

The session came to a premature end thanks to another incident for the weekend at McPhillamy Park with Dean Canto skipping across the gravel trap, launching the #29 Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan over the concrete wall but coming to a rest before the catch fencing.

With the session over, Campbell led the way and will be the last car out for the shootout as Maro Engel moved the #77 Craft Bamboo Black Falcon Merc to second. 2016 winner Alvaro Parente ended up third in the #60 McLaren 750S GT3, just ahead of Marciello’s #999.

Also making the shootout will be the #1 Laurens Vanthoor Porsche, Kelvin van der Linde’s #222 Audi, the #18 KCMG JP De Olivera Nissan, Dennis in the #62 Aston, Marco Mapelli in the #63 Lamborghini and finally the #888 Mercedes of Shane van Gisbergen, just scraping into the ten.

The Top Ten Shootout will get underway at 5:05pm local time, finalising the grid for tomorrow’s once-around-the-clock race.

Words: Jordan Mulach