THERE’S nothing like qualifying at Mount Panorama.
It doesn’t matter if it’s for the Bathurst 1000, the LIQUI MOLY 12-Hour or a sprint for Hyundai Excels, there’s something special about watching drivers tackle the Mountain for one special lap, with only the clock to beat.
And when it comes to the Bathurst 12 Hour, it gets even more impressive because speeds get ratcheted up to eleven in the pursuit of the Allan Simonsen Pole Award – a trophy that every single driver would love to get their hands on.
There have been some mighty qualifying efforts during the GT era of the 12 Hour – not all of them laps that ultimately score pole position.
One week out from qualifying day for the 2022 race, here’s our look at some of the best laps in 12-Hour history.
10. David Russell, 2015
JBS / Lago Racing Lamborghini Gallardo
MAKES the top-10 for the sheer surprise of it: a stunning lap from David Russell in Roger Lago’s JBS Racing Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 saw the Reiter Engineering-built car line up second on the grid, behind only the Phoenix Racing Audi of Laurens Vanthoor and in front of the factory Nissan, an AF Corse Ferrari, the Craft-Bamboo Aston and a whole heap of other gun drivers.
A huge lap that would help put Russell on the radar for the big teams in subsequent 12-Hour appearances.
9. Ash Walsh, 2017
Miedecke Stone Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3
ANOTHER delightful surprise, this time in the 2017 Shootout as the unheralded Miedecke Stone Aston, replete with glorious V12 wail, made up five spots from their pre-shootout qualifying position to start that year’s race from fourth position.
CLICK HERE to view the stunning lap from Walsh.
Maximizing fortunate timing on a scorching Bathurst afternoon, Ash Walsh was only beaten to the front row of the grid this year by double DTM Champion Marco Wittmann, Chaz Mostert and Tony Vilander..
8. Rene Rast, 2016
Jamec-Pem Racing Audi R8 LMS
YOU KNOW it’s a competitive field when you punch out what was, at the time, the second fastest ever lap of Mount Panorama but still miss pole position by half a second..
Such was the case for Rene Rast when he took Steve McLaughlin’s R8 to second in qualifying for the 2016 race by virtue of a massive lap. Still, against one of the very best and most experienced local aces, this was an enormous lap for the Audi driver.
7. Toni Vilander, 2017
Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3
COOL, calm and collected was the story of the day for the Flying Finn Vilander, who delivered Ferrari their first pole position on the Mountain in style ahead of the 2017 race, in the first ever 12-Hour shootout.
Vilander had punched out a 2m02.21s best to grab provisional pole but in full sunshine and in scorching heat later in the day, delivered a 2m02.86 to edge out Chaz Mostert by two-tenths as the last car running.
Up at the first split and marginally down after the second, Vilander’s final sector was mighty and saw the unflappable Finn top the charts.
It was a picture perfect lap amidst a driving combo that could have had either driver – Lowndes and Whincup were the other two pilots – qualify and still have a shot at pole.
6. Chaz Mostert, 2018
BMW Team Schnitzer BMW M6 GT3
CHAZ, already a Bathurst 1000 winner, stunned the GT world in 2017 when he hustled MARC Cars Australia’s privately-run BMW M6GT3 onto the front row of the 12-Hour grid, beating both of the BMW-supported entries in the process. That performance netted him a factory drive with Schnitzer the following year.
Mostert repaid that faith quickly with an awesome lap in the shootout, punching into the 2m01s to unseat provisional polesitter Kelvin van der Linde’s Audi R8 by two-tenths of a second. It was the first Bathurst pole for BMW, for the late Charlie Lamb’s team and for Mostert, too.
5. Laurens Vanthoor, 2015
Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra
FEW international drivers adapted as quickly to hustling a GT3 car around Bathurst in qualy trim than the Belgian, Laurens Vanthoor.. and few did it as spectacularly.
To compensate for the Audi’s lack of straight line speed – thanks, BoP – Vanthoor pushed harder than everyone across the top of Mount Panorama, where the R8’s have traditionally been at their best, and in 2015 it paid off with one of the all-time great single laps.
On his sixth and final tour of the brief, 20-minute session, Vanthoor’s 2m02.5521s was a full six-tenths faster than the next best and didn’t just move the pole benchmark forward at Bathurst, it tipped it into a full league: it was a full 1.3 seconds quicker than the previous qualifying record. Magic.
4. Matt Campbell, 2020
Absolute Racing Porsche 911 GT3R
AT the track he loves more than any other, and with the weight of trying to deliver Porsche their first Bathurst win lifted from his shoulders thanks to his 2019 heroics, Matt Campbell just went for it in the 2020 shootout – and boy, did he deliver.
Three-tenths up in the first sector and a full seven-tenths up in the second, Campbell ultimately beat Alvaro Parente’s McLaren by two-tenths of a second to deliver the German brand their first Bathurst pole in style.
3. Jake Dennis, 2019
R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3
THIS is the best Bathurst pole lap that will never be recorded. A fairy-tale performer all weekend, the unheralded R-Motorsport Aston Vantage GT3 was never fancied among the key contenders prior to the 2019 race – the drivers were not the biggest names around and the V12 Vantage was somewhat long in the tooth compared to some of it’s immediate rivals.
Except for the fact that someone forgot to tell Jake Dennis, the unassuming young Brit who took to Mount Panorama like the proverbial duck to execute a stunning Shootout lap, four-tenths quicker than anyone else.
Sadly, the time was later disallowed and the car excluded from the shootout due to a technical infringement – one that would hardly account for the massive margin that Dennis delivered on his glorious lap.
They may have been able to take the time away, but nothing will take how stunning – in the context of a ridiculously competitive field – this lap was on the day.
2. Maro Engel, 2014
Erebus Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
YES, the lap time was very impressive and German Maro Engel firmly enforced just how good he was with this performance in qualifying for the 2014 race – but this lap also ranks highly for the context around it.
In an industry still reeling from the loss of Allan Simonsen at LeMans the previous year, the addition of a pole award named in his honour added another level of importance to qualifying day for the 12-Hour. All of a sudden, it had meaning. It had soul.
The scenes of the Erebus team walking the Allan Simonsen Pole Trophy down the lane to Maranello Motorsport following the session were among the most emotive of the event’s short history as a GT race at the time, and added a layer of storytelling and significance that hadn’t existed before. In the context of the race, at the time, this qualifying lap was remarkable.
1. Shane van Gisbergen, 2016
Tenko Autosport McLaren 650S GT3
QUITE SIMPLY, this is the fastest qualifying lap in the long history of Mount Panorama.
Shane van Gisbergen was in another level for most of the 2016 12-hour weekend and had already punched out a staggering 2m01.591s best to top the all-in qualifying session, held before the GT3 cars had their own all-in 20-minute time attack to see if they could go better (this being pre-Shootout).
Watch the lap here
Interviewed in the short break between sessions, SVG intimated that he could probably go quicker which drew gasps of surprise from all involved, given his fastest lap was already a full second quicker than what Laurens Vanthoor had managed a year prior.
And yet, when the heat was turned up to 11 in the Class A session, SVG and the Orange McLaren punched out a staggering 2m01.286s best, a full 0.5s quicker than the next best car. It remains the fastest anyone has ever gone in qualifying for a Bathurst motor race. Good luck beating it..
This story was first published on www.theracetorque.com