THE FIRST ever Pirelli Top-10 shootout at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour has been emotionally claimed by Ferrari team Maranello Motorsport – delivering them the prestigious Allan Simonsen pole award.
Finnish ace Toni Vilander powered the team’s Ferrari 488 GT3 to the top spot to claim the pole award named after the team’s late driver, who tragically died in an accident overseas in 2013.
Vilander was the last car to run in the shootout and his 2m02.861 lap was enough to edge out Chaz Mostert’s BMW M6 GT3 by just 0.194 seconds in the closing stages of a session held in 35-degree temperatures.
Receiving the trophy was an emotional moment for the 36-year-old Finnish Ferrari pilot.
“I must admit, some strong emotions went through when I saw the trophy,” Vilander said.
“I saw Allan for the first time in 1994 when I raced in Denmark and at the race where he had the issue, with the big accident and I talked with him on the grid so it’s not an easy moment.
“The conditions were quite difficult out there, really hot track temperature. We were seeking the right tyre pressure to get the right setting for the car for this but also for the race this is a key moment for tomorrow afternoon as well. I’m really happy, happy to be with these two legends here so, we are looking strong for tomorrow.
“Overall the lap was pretty good. I thought I had it under control but, overall it was a good lap. It’s not an easy form of qualifying, the shoot-out, There is some extra pressure. You wait those three long hours to get out there and you don’t really know what to expect.
“The track itself is one of the best in the world. It’s cool to be back here, in the past with the Ferrari 458 this year with the 488.”
Seven different brands filled the top-10 positions in the shootout, however it will be a pair of BMW entries chasing the bright red Maranello Ferrari into turn one tomorrow morning at 5:45am local time (live on 7mate around Australia).
Chaz Mostert pushed his MARC GT M6 to second place while German young-gun Marco Wittmann took the BMW Team SRM M6 GT3 to third.
“I have been super stoked with the whole weekend so far, the BMW hasn’t put a foot out of place yet and the car is really quite comfortable,” Mostert said.
“It was interesting watching the times at the start of the top ten – obviously the temp went up a lot this afternoon, and we were watching a ‘three eight’ as the best until the last three guys went out. We knew it was going to be quite slippery out there, I don’t know if (the temp) came down a bit more towards the end there but there is still a lot of grip in these cars so I was pretty stoked with that lap.
“These guys next to us though have done an awesome job all weekend and they are going to be hard to beat tomorrow.”
In fourth was the ever-surprising Miedecke Stone Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage, the V12-powered car leaping from eighth in the earlier qualifying session to a prime spot on the outside of the second row thanks to the efforts of Ash Walsh.
The third car to run, it took Wittmann and Mostert to bump the Aston from the top spot late in the Shootout – his 2m03.823s lap locking them into fourth on the grid.
Bentley Motorsport scored their best ever starting position on the Mountain thanks to a fifth-placed effort by Belgian driver Maxime Soulet, while defending champions McLaren will start sixth thanks to a solid effort from Alvaro Parente – the defending 12-hour winner.
Kiwi Earl Bamber put the Walkinshaw Racing Porsche seventh, Timo Glock was eighth in the second BMW Team SRM entry and Matt Campbell ninth in the Ice Break Racing Competition Motorsports Porsche.
Sydney young-gun Nathan Antunes was 10th in the GT Motorsport Audi in what was something of a giant-killing performance from the Audi entry, beating their high-profile teammates from Jamec Pem Racing into the top-10.
Shock omissions from the Pirelli Shootout included the second Bentley Continental GT3 (who could only manage 17th), both JAMEC-PEM Audi’s – including the star Christoper Mies / Christoper Haase / Garth Tander No. 75 car (15th) and notably the 2015 winning Nissan GTR.
The factory Nissan entry was damaged in a crash in this morning’s practice session when Katsumasa Chiyo clipped the wall entering the dipper. Though the team was able to repair the car, they narrowly missed the shootout and will start the race 12th tomorrow – just in front of the sister No. 24 car that was repaired overnight.
Defending Virgin Australia Supercars Champion and 12-hour winner Shane van Gisbergen could only manage to drag his STM AMG GT3 to 18th position, while defending Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 winner Will Davison’s plans hang on a late-night repair job for his McLaren team after co-driver Ben Barnicoat crashed exiting the chase earlier today.
The team is freighting in parts from Queensland overnight in an effort to have the car back on track for the start tomorrow.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour commences at 5:45am tomorrow morning and will be shown live on 7mate around Australia, and via a free live stream around the world on www.bathurst12hour.com.au