Day one of the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour saw the battles lines drawn in favour of Mercedes-AMG as the German car manufacturer placed itself on top in three of the four sessions during bathurst 12 hour practise. It was smiles and then tears for the #35 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 squad as it first went quickest in practice 1 and moments later suffered a weekend-ending crash.
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First track action for the 2020 Bathurst 12 Hour took place Friday morning with a session for non-Class A Platinum and Gold drivers. KCMG pilot Josh Burdon burst to the top of the standings halfway through the session with a time of 2:06.5531 – eventually beating second-placed Brenton Grove in the #4 Team Australia Grove Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R by 1.22 seconds.
It wasn’t all smiles at the Nissan squad, however, as Burdon ended up crashing the blue and white-coloured Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 on the climb up the mountain at Reid Park five minutes before the session’s end. The damaged suffered was diagnosed as too severe to continue the weekend, forcing KCMG to retire the #35 Nissan and leaving local favourite Josh Burdon, 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour champion Katsumasa Chiyo, and Tsugio Matsuda sidelined.
- #35 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 (Josh Burdon) 2:06.5531
- #4 Team Australia Grove Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Brenton Grove) 2:07.7731
- #777 The Bend Motorsport Park Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Yasser Sahin) 2:07.8290
After a short delay to clear the track of the crashed Nissan, the second session got underway. Now with all drivers eligible to take part in practice, times quickly dropped into the 2:05s. Halfway into the session Raffaele Marciello put the #999 Mercedes-AMG Gruppe M Racing atop the charts with a time of 2:04.7819, beating Maro Engel’s 2:05.1447 the #77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo Racing pilot set earlier in the session. Kelvin van der Linde – driving the #222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline R8 LMS GT3 – became the second driver to crank out a lap of 2:04, almost equalling Marciello’s as the South African was scored a 2:04.7919.
Another red flag was brought out with 10 minutes left in the session. At the high-speed Griffin’s Bend, Engel lost control of his car as the right rear suspension failure on the Mercedes-AMG GT3. No significant damage was done to the car.
At the same time, the #12 NED Racing Team Porsche 991.2 GT3R of Romain Dumas stopped at Forrest Elbow with an engine issue, requiring a tow back to the pits during the red flag.
- #999 Mercedes-AMG Gruppe M Racing (Raffaele Marciello) 2:04.7819
- #222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline (Kelvin van der Linde) 2:04.7919
- #77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo Racing (Maro Engel) 2:05:1447
New South Wales local and 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner David Reynolds set the fastest time in the first afternoon session with a 2:04.9312. The driver of the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 took to the top of the charts late in the session.
Craft-Bamboo Racing wasn’t put down by its earlier problems, taking second place courtesy of a 2:05.1670 by Luca Stolz. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo held first place for a while until being relegated to second by Reynolds.
KCMG, having lost its #35 Nissan that morning, bounced back with a third place in the afternoon for the #18 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3. João Paulo de Oliveira, navigating the GT-R over Mount Panorama in a clean lap, set a 2:05.2972 to show off the car’s potential in the scorching heat of Australian summer.
- #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (David Reynolds) 2:04.9312
- #77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo Racing (Luca Stolz) 2:05.1670
- #18 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 (JP de Oliveira) 2:05.2972
The final practice session of the day saw Shane van Gisbergen post the fastest time of Friday and continue Mercedes-AMG’s dominance on the opening day. Driving the #888 Mercedes-AMG Team Triple Eight Race Engineering, the Australian’s 2:03.9649 lap time was a good 8-tenths quicker than Marciello’s Free Practice 1 lap time.
Doubling down on Mercedes-AMG’s might, the Triple Eight Race Engineering sister car entered under the The Bend Motorsport Park banner, set the second fastest time with a 2:04.1684 at the hands of Anton De Pasquale.
The third fastest time of the session and of the day went to the #222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline of Van der Linde who set a 2:04.4776.
Privateer team Team Australia Grove Racing impressed with fourth place. Porsche specialist Ben Barker went faster than any of the other Porsche 991.2 GT3Rs over the whole day, clocking a 2:05.0264 for the Herberth Motorsport-supported team.
After a clean run in the third session, the final hour of Friday practice saw the red flag make a final appearance. A mistake by Sergej Afanasiev in the #46 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 up on the mountain at Skyline called for a short stop of the session to recover the AutoArena-sponsored AMG. The Russian managed to bring the car back on its own power.
- #888 Mercedes-AMG Team Triple Eight (Shane van Gisbergen) 2:03.9649
- #777 The Bend Motorsport Park Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Anton De Pasquale) 2:04.1684
- #222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline (Kelvin van der Linde) 2:04.4776
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