Defending Bathurst 12 Hour winner Matt Campbell has claimed Porsche’s first ever pole at the Australian track as he stormed to the top spot in a crash-disrupted qualifying.
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Australian Campbell was immediately on the pace at his home Intercontinental GT Challenge round as the Absolute Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R proved to be the class of the field on both the group qualifying and the top ten shootout to decide the front of the now-smaller field.
In group qualifying, Campbell powered his way from 16th to provisional pole in a 30-minute session that was marred by two red flag periods for two nasty crashes. The first was to recover the R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 of Marvin Kirchhöfer, the Swiss clipped the wall at Metal Grate which broke the Aston’s steering and sent him into the barriers between Sulman Park and McPhillamy. Kirchhöfer rolled the car over, but thankfully got out of the car – with assistance from Honda Racing’s Renger van der Zande.
Kirchhofer rolled the car over, but thankfully got out of the car – with assistance from Honda Racing’s Renger van der Zande. In an interview with Sportscar365, he praised the strength of the Aston: “I have to say a big credit to AMR. They built a car which protected me from any bad injuries so I’m very glad I can stand here and be alright and give the mechanics a helping hand.”
This is terrifying. #B12hr pic.twitter.com/9NFSELa7t3
— Bathurst 12 Hour (@Bathurst12hour) February 1, 2020
Bathurst 12 hour qualifying resumed with 20 minutes to go, the field was denied a final flying lap around Mount Panorama when Dean Canto – in the Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 – lost the rear of the car at McPhillamy, skipped over the gravel trap and ended up parked on top of the barriers, bringing out a session-ending red flag just moments after Campbell booked Absolute’s place in the final qualifying showdown.
What has happened here?!?#B12hr pic.twitter.com/hHPRYDcGzV
— Bathurst 12 Hour (@Bathurst12hour) February 1, 2020
Setting off on their single flying-lap efforts in reverse order in the top ten shootout, Campbell was the last out on track and proceeded to obliterate Álvaro Parente’s provisional pole lap in the 59Racing McLaren 720S GT3 by 0.2248sec as he nailed a near-perfect lap around Bathurst to secure the Allan Simonsen Memorial Pole Trophy.
He said: “I’ve been trying to go for this pole for a few years now and have always managed to stuff it up but quite happy to get it in the new generation of GT3R on its debut here.
“Hats off to the team, we weren’t quite happy with the car early in the weekend and we got a little better this morning. In qualifying we had to find the pace with the new tyres and we hadn’t really got much experience on new tyres yet but the speed just came straight to us.
“Great way to start a weekend but in saying that, it’s irrelevant come tomorrow morning. It’s a long 12 hours, we just need to get through Turn 1 fine and settle into a rhythm.”
Parente himself was lucky to secure second as he was just 0.04sec ahead of Raffaele Marciello in the GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3 in a tightly-packed session which saw JP de Oliveira make it four manufacturers in the top four places as he put the KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 into the leading quartet less than a tenth behind Marciello.
Fifth was the Earl Bamber Motorsport Porsche driven by Laurens Vanthoor, who admitted on social media after qualifying that he wasn’t happy with his effort in the final shootout.
A place behind Vanthoor was a heroic effort from Maro Engel in the Craft-Bamboo Mercedes which had to miss most of Friday’s running because of suspension issues. He was on running on the pace of the provisional polesitters for most of his lap – albeit as the last car before Campbell – but ran too deep at the final corner and lost a handful of tenths, relegating him to sixth just 0.1673sec ahead of Kelvin Van Der Linde in the fastest of the Audi R8 LMS entries.
Eighth went to Shane van Gisbergen in the Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Marco Mapelli claiming the highest start for Lamborghini in ninth in his Orange1 FFF Racing Huracán GT3 while Jake Dennis – in the sister R-Motorsport Aston Martin – couldn’t match the leading pace and will line up for the 12 Hour in tenth.
Elsewhere in the field, local team Grove Racing could only secure 16th in its Porsche 991.2 GT3R, with driver – and WEC regular – Ben Barker telling GT REPORT that the team’s pace in practice didn’t carry over to qualifying.
He said: “Qualifying was quite frustrating in the end actually because in the practice sessions we were looking quite good and the car felt really good going into qualifying. We thought we were on with quite a good car but just losing the rear end a little bit didn’t help us. I didn’t really have the confidence to be honest up over the hill with that loose rear. We know what it is, we’ll adjust it for tomorrow and hopefully the car balance will be much better for the race. It’s just disappointing because we could have really been up there. The main thing is all the corners are straight and it’s a long race tomorrow so it’s most important to be there at the start.”
Grove was more fortunate than two other teams though, which didn’t take part in qualifying after big incidents during Saturday morning’s Free Practice Five. The only Ferrari 488 GT3 in the field – entered by HubAuto Corsa – was the first to be withdrawn before qualifying after an attempted rebuild proved to be in vain. The second was the Scandia Racing Marc II which also suffered extensive damage in FP5.
RESULTS TOP 10 SHOOT-OUT
- #911 Absolute Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Matt Campbell) 2:03.5554
- #60 59Racing McLaren 720S GT3 (Álvaro Parente) 2:03.7802
- #999 Mercedes-AMG GruppeM Racing (Raffaele Marciello) 2:03.8219
- #18 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 (JP de Oliveira) 2:03.9403
- #1 Earl Bamber Motorsport Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Laurens Vanthoor) 2:03.9829
- #77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo (Maro Engel) 2:04.0769
- #222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline (Kelvin van der Linde) 2:04.3442
- #888 Mercedes-AMG Team Triple Eight (Shane van Gisbergen) 2:04.3560
- #63 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (Marco Mapelli) 2:04.5014
- #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 (Jake Dennis) 2:04.7524
Full results from qualifying can be found HERE.
With Bathurst 12 hour qualifying over the full Bathurst 12 Hours race starts at 5:45am local time (19:45 CET and 18:45 UK) with a live stream and full coverage on GT REPORT.
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