The grid is set for the 2023 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, with an intense Saturday qualifying session setting new records and showcasing the level of quality within the 2023 edition’s field.
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Maro Engel has won the Allan Simonsen trophy and set a new qualifying lap record for GT3 cars at Mount Panorama, going sub 2m01.000s after threatening most of today.
Indeed Engel left his best for last after an intense final shoot out of the top 5 cars placed several cars underneath Shane van Gisbergen’s 2016 qualifying record lap time of 2m01.2860s set in a McLaren 650S GT3.
After a session of fast laps exchanged between the top 4 cars in the final shoot out, Engel put it all on the table with his last flying lap – setting a 2m00.8819s and the end of the three-four lap window of optimal performance offered by the new Pirelli compound debuting in Australia this race.
Triple Eight Racing’s Supercars Australia young talent Broc Feeney hit his stride on Saturday in the #888 Mercedes-AMG GT3, seemingly having pole wrapped up with a blistering 2m01.0983s late in the session after trading fast laps with Manthey EMA’s #912 Porsche 911 GT3R driven by Matt Campbell who set a 2m01.1730s and the #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of last years winner, Jules Gounon with a best of 2m01.2916s.
The three cars at the front of the grid created history in beating the 2016 benchmark, with fourth placed Gounon just falling short by 0.056s seconds, creating the fastest qualifying session in the GT3 era of the Bathurst 12 hour’s history, but it was Engel’s all-in effort that did it best.
Even the fifth car of the final shoot out, the #32 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 of Dries Vanthoor managed a highly respectable 2m01.7241s in a car he has only just started to race in anger.
Chaz Mostert headlined the first shoot out for the sixth to tenth fastest cars taken from today’s earlier qualifying sessions, setting a best time of 2m01.8694s after threatening to also tuck under the 2016 time. The effort also made the #65 Audi R8 LMS GT3 the best places Pro-Am entry heading into tomorrows race.
All eight Pro cars made the split Top 10 shoot out sessions. Audi also takes the seventh slot with the Pro entry #74 R8 LMS GT3 of Mattia Drudi, followed by the #46 BMW M4 GT3 of Team WRT’s Maxime Martin in eigth, the #44 Valmont Mercedes-AMG GT3 lines up ninth after a highly respectable showing from local TCR hero Aaron Cameron and the 10th place given to Craft Bamboo Racings Pro line up in the #77 Mercedes-AMG GT3 which was driven by Daniel Juncadella.
A spate of incidents has seen the Invitational field come down to just two cars remaining, with the MARC II and KTM entries lost in Fridays Practices now joined by the Sin R1 after a Saturday incident at the top of the mountain. This leaves just the Mercedes-AMG GT4 and the MARC I car remaining for race day.
The Bathurst 12 Hour gets underway at 5:45am local time (7:45pm CET, 6:45pm UK) and you can watch it all live on GT REPORT here.
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