Triple Eight dominate practice at scorching Mount Panorama

TRIPLE EIGHT Racing has delivered a one-two punch in practice ahead of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour this weekend at Mount Panorama.

The Aussie team finished 1-2 after four sessions on the Mountain today to show their true form ahead of qualifying tomorrow and Sunday’s around-the-clock enduro.

Supercars champion and former 12-hour winner Shane van Gisbergen set the fastest time of the day in his Mercedes AMG GT3, to be shared this weekend by Supercars teammate Jamie Whincup, and German ace Maximilian Goetz.

Teammate for the weekend, Anton de Pasquale, followed closely behind to give the Aussie team a lockout at the top of an ultra-competitive field after the first day of on-track action on the Mountain.

The 2016 Bathurst 12 Hour champion a quickest time of 2:03.9649 in the final practice session to top a competitive day of practice – staged in scorching 35-degree temperatures.

Van Gisbergen said both cars attempted a qualifying simulation late in the day, electing to show their potential early in the weekend.

“The car is awesome. Our two cars were up the front on low fuel and new tyres – other teams won’t be doing that. It feels good for now and we’ve got a good handle on what the car is doing.

“It’s a very different style to how the Europeans do it; they will be hanging out to qualy.”

Anton de Pasquale was second fastest in The Bend Motorsport Park’s entry – also prepared by Triple Eight.

Borrowed by the team from regular Supercars rivals Erebus Motorsport, de Pasquale was another to star in the final session and will share his The Bend Motorsport Park Mercedes AMG with Nick Foster and Adelaide brothers, Sam and Yasser Shahin.

He was only 0.2 seconds behind his Supercars rival, while South African star Kelvin van der Linde was third in the first Audi entry. In the scorching conditions, non-turbo cars dominated proceedings with Mercedes-AMG, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini entries filling the top-10 positions in practice.

Friday saw 12-Hour competitors tackle four practice sessions to set the tone for the weekend ahead, the usual Bathurst drama a constant throughout a scorching day.

Practice one pacesetter Josh Burdon was impressive early, however on a dirty circuit the young Tasmanian crashed his KCMG Nissan GTR at Reid Park late in the session.

The damage was so severe that the entry, to be been shared by Japanese aces Tsugio Matsuda and 2015 winner Katsumasa Chiyo, was later withdrawn from the event having been judged unrepairable. The field now stands at 38 cars following the Nissan’s withdrawal.

One of last year’s standout drivers, Swiss pilot Raffaele Marciello, lifted the #999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing up to the top spot in Practice Two as he lapped the Mount Panorama circuit in 2:04.7819, almost two seconds than Burdon’s practice one time.

Initially running as the fastest car on track, the #77 Craft Bamboo Black Falcon entry of Maro Engel found itself in the wall after Griffin’s Bend late in the session, giving the team a big job to repair the Mercedes AMG GT3 – though it would later return to the circuit competitively following successful repairs.

Bathurst winner David Reynolds elevated the #75 SunEnergy1 entry to the top of the order late in the third practice session thanks to a 2:04.9312s effort – the repaired Engel AMG second and just two-tenths down.

The final session of the day saw slightly cooler track conditions and the fastest times of the day as drivers tackled something of a qualifying simulation at the very end of the session.

The battle was ultimately won by van Gisbergen: The Kiwi becoming the first and only driver to lap beneath the 2m04-second barrier today. Having topped the charts for much of the session, de Pasquale finished the day second to his teammate.

A final one-hour practice session will see the field on track at 8:45am on Saturday morning prior to a two-part qualifying session.

Practice resumes at 8:45am tomorrow morning before qualifying begins at 12:40pm, followed by two more sessions to determine the grid for Sunday’s race.

Words: Jordan Mulach

COMBINED RESULTS – PRACTICE

Pos Car Competitor/Team Driver Vehicle CL Fastest Lap Gap
1 888 Mercedes-AMG Team Triple Eight S.van Gisbergen/
J.Whincup/M.Goetz Mercedes AMG GT3 PRO 2:03.9649*
2 777 The Bend Motorsport Park Y.Shahin/N.Foster/
A.De Pasquale/S.Shahin Mercedes AMG GT3 PAM 2:04.1684 0:00.2035
3 222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline K.van der Linde/M.Drudi/
M.Winkelhock Audi R8 – LMS GT3 PRO 2:04.4776 0:00.5127
4 999 Mercedes-AMG GruppeM Racing F.Fraga/M.Buhk/
R.Marciello Mercedes AMG GT3 PRO 2:04.7819 0:00.8170
5 22 Audi Sport Team Valvoline G.Tander/C.Mies/
M.Bortolotti Audi R8 – LMS GT3 PRO 2:04.8091 0:00.8442
6 75 SunEnergy1 Racing K.Habul/D.Baumann/
M.Konrad/D.Reynolds Mercedes AMG GT3 PAM 2:04.9312 0:00.9663
7 4 Team Australia Grove Racing S.Grove/B.Grove/
B.Barker Porsche GT3 R PAM 2:05.0264 0:01.0615
8 2 Audi Sport Team Valvoline D.Vanthoor/C.Haase/
F.Vervisch Audi R8 – LMS GT3 PRO 2:05.0394 0:01.0745
9 63 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team A.Caldarelli/M.Mapelli/
D.Lind Lamborghini Hurracan PRO 2:05.0737 0:01.1088
10 77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo M.Engel/L.Stolz/
Y.Buurman Mercedes AMG GT3 PRO 2:05.1447 0:01.1798
11 1 Earl Bamber Motorsport E.Bamber/L.Vanthoor/
C.Lowndes Porsche GT3 R PRO 2:05.1935 0:01.2286
12 18 KCMG J.De Oliveira/
E.Liberati/A.Imperatori Nissan GTR Nismo GT PRO 2:05.2972 0:01.3323
13 7 Bentley Team M-Sport Jules Gounon (FRA) Bentley Continental PRO 2:05.5229 0:01.5580
14 76 R – Motorsport J.Dennis/R.Kelly/
S.Dixon Aston Martin Vantage PRO 2:05.5601 0:01.5952
15 27 Hub Auto Corsa M.Gomes/T.Slade/D.Serra Ferrari 488 GT3 PRO 2:05.5747 0:01.6098
16 30 Honda Racing Team JAS D.Cameron/
R.van der Zande/
M.Farnbacher Acura/ Honda NSX GT3 PRO 2:05.6290 0:01.6641
17 9 Hallmarc M.Cini/D.Fiore/
L.Holdsworth Audi R8 – LMS GT3 PAM 2:05.7606 0:01.7957
18 912 Absolute Racing D.Werner/M.Cairoli/
T.Preining Porsche GT3 R PRO 2:05.7713 0:01.8064
19 911 Absolute Racing M.Jaminet/P.Pilet/
M.Campbell Porsche GT3 R PRO 2:05.7764 0:01.8115
20 6 Wall Racing A.Deitz/A.D’Alberto/
J.Westwood/C.McConville Lamborghini Hurracan SIL 2:06.0336 0:02.0687
21 46 Black Falcon P.Assenheimer/
S.Afanasiev/M.Beretta Mercedes AMG GT3 SIL 2:06.0647 0:02.0998
22 60 59Racing/ EMA Racing A.Parente/B.Barnicoat/
T.Blomqvist McLaren 720S GT3 PRO 2:06.1599 0:02.1950
23 12 NED Racing Team D.Calvert-Jones/R.Dumas/
J.Evans Porsche GT3 R PAM 2:06.1785 0:02.2136
24 29 Trofeo Motorsport L.Talbot/D.Canto/
M.Zalloua/G.Denyer Lamborghini Huracan SIL 2:06.2759 0:02.3110
25 91 Scandia Racer Industries A.Cameron/B.Feeney/
N.Percat MARC II INV 2:06.4094 0:02.4445
26 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport A.Farfus/N.Catsburg/
C.Mostert BMW M6 GT3 PRO 2:06.5313 0:02.5664
27 35 KCMG Josh Burdon (HKG) Nissan GTR Nismo GT3 PRO 2:06.5531 0:02.5882
28 8 Bentley Team M-Sport Alex Buncombe (GBR) Bentley Continental PRO 2:06.7135 0:02.7486
29 159 Garage 59 A.Watson/O.Hart/
R.De Angelis Aston Martin Vantage SIL 2:06.7143 0:02.7494
30 59 59Racing D.Storey/F.Ross/
M.Kodric McLaren 720S GT3 SIL 2:06.7730 0:02.8081
31 188 Garage 59 A.West/C.Goodwin/
C.Ledogar/M.Martin Aston Martin Vantage PAM 2:07.6203 0:03.6554
32 92 Scandia Racer Industries H.Morrall/T.Everingham/
J.Kaye MARC II INV 2:08.3677 0:04.4028
33 20 Local Search A.Hargraves/
C.Sbirrazzuoli/
D.Jilesen/S.Owen MARC II INV 2:08.5237 0:04.5588
34 62 R – Motorsport L.Ghiotto/O.Caldwell Aston Martin Vantage PRO 2:08.5297 0:04.5648
35 96 Hobson Motorsport B.Hobson/K.Kostecki/
G.Walden Nissan GT-R NISMO GT SIL 2:08.5969 0:04.6320
36 95 MARC Cars Australia G.Taunton/B.Hall/W.Luff/
B.Schumacher MARC II INV 2:09.0048 0:05.0399
37 24 Bostik Australia T.Bates/G.Emery/M.Twigg/
D.O’Keeffe Audi R8 – LMS GT3 SIL 2:09.0226 0:05.0577
38 19 usedtrucks.com.au M.Griffith/D.Muller/
H.Newey Mercedes AMG GT4 GT4 2:16.6084 0:12.6435
39 13 JET Battery Services D.Jorgensen/B.Strom/
D.van Dongen BMW M4 GT4 GT4 2:18.3848 0:14.4199