Fans watching the Bathurst 12 Hour pole shootout action from the top of the mountain couldn’t have known that what they were witnessing would be the pole lap. It didn’t look spectacular and the humming sound resonating from the Schnitzer Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 as it worked its way across Mount Panorama didn’t help perception either.
The sector times, however, told a different story: Chaz Mostert hit all his marks and at the end of the one-lap dash for pole the 25-year-old from Melbourne had edged out Audi superstars Kelvin van der Linde and Christopher Haase to claim first place on the grid.
In the days and hours before qualifying, Mostert and his teammates had already shown their true colours as they took to top of the charts, dicing with the Audi teams for the fastest times. Despite the top position he found himself in, Mostert never felt too comfortable. Up and down pitlane the world’s best GT drivers and teams waited for their turn to shine.
“I don’t know if you ever feel like you belong to the top of the time charts,” said Mostert.
“Obviously, the car was strong and I felt quite comfortable out there and did the times. I don’t know, there are probably a 150 people that were all racing there who deserved to be at the top of the time table.”
The narrow, twisty roads along the mountain section are some of the toughest few kilometres in racing. To find a perfect rhythm up and down the hill is vital for a quick lap time. With the wall always just inches away, any mistake is punished by the 80-year-old circuit. A car needs to work perfectly and that’s exactly what the BMW did.
“The car was strong across the top of the hill. Across the top it was always in the top 2 of the times in qualifying, practice and even in the race. It felt very comfortable, on a track you normally never feel comfortable on, but the car gave great feedback, which was very positive.
“With practice and all that out the way, we were kind of leading up and I think we had a good shot to do it. Once we put some good tires on the car and went with low fuel, the car gave us good feedback.”
Describing his 2:01.934 pole lap, Mostert continues: “It was always going to be a hard shoot-out. There were great cars up there, so I’m just glad we got it all together.
“I didn’t actually know how I was really tracking along with the time. Normally, we have a lap predictor on the dash, but for some reason that wasn’t working for that one lap.
“I just put my foot down and went as hard as I could go and the car had the goods in the end. It was fantastic!”
Mostert carried his form over into the next day, leading and running away in the opening stages of the 12-hour endurance race. After the team’s initial pace had died down, the Germans were forced to retire after an accident two-thirds into the race.
Despite the bitter ending, Mostert’s excitement is tangible even a month later, on the eve of the first Supercars Championship race of the season in Adelaide.
“It was a fantastic event. The amount of names that came out and the number of manufacturers that showed their support behind it—it was amazing to be a part of.
“For me, it was my second year and it was cool to line up with a team like Schnitzer Motorsport. It was very exciting to have the opportunity and for the most part it was a successful weekend. We qualified really well—the race didn’t quite go to plan for us, stuff like that unfortunately happens.
“It was definitely an eye-opening experience. I’m used to working here in Australia, so to open up my experience level and see how different an overseas team operates was pretty exciting to be a part of. They’re a very professional outfit with BMW, it was very excited to line up with that car.”
Having given the stars of the international GT sport a run for their money in the Bathurst 12 Hour, the Australian supertalent says he’s looking to add more sports car races to his resumé.
“Yeah, a hundred-percent, that’s what I’m here to do: to race. If it’s not here in Australia, I’d also like to do some stuff overseas and keep widening my experience level and race some of the biggest names not only here in Australia but around the world as well. It’s what I signed up to do.
“When I decided to chase the career of being a race car driver, I never thought the doors would open up overseas. It’s fantastic to be involved with people like those at BMW Motorsport. Hopefully I can tie a few more events together this year.”
For now, however, it’s the Supercars Championship that gets his full attention. After two seasons at Rod Nash Racing, Mostert is back with Ford’s A-team, now rebranded as Tickford Racing after the merger of Rod Nash Racing and Prodrive.
The former Bathurst 1000 winner believes a championship challenge could be in the cards.
“Yeah, for sure. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think the team was capable.
“They brought me through [the Dunlop Super2 Series] into the main game as well, which is very—I have a lot of respect for that, and I try to be a very loyal person.
“We’ll just have to see what happens. We’ll try our hardest and I’ll push a 110-percent and the team in background are putting in a 110-percent, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Slade Perrins contributed to this report.
Image by Ryan Lee Graphics.