Aston Martin’s Vantage GT3 looks like ending its racing career at Bathurst in style by qualifying fastest for Sunday’s Bathurst 12 Hour race in Australia.
On his first visit to the famed Mount Panorama circuit, England’s Jake Dennis smashed the opposition to pieces with a lap time of 2m02.4946s. He was a stunning 0.44s clear of an otherwise packed field in the Top 10 Shootout.
“It looked tough out there but I knew if I put a clean lap together…” said a breathless Dennis after the lap.
“The car was unbelievable — so, so strong. I had no idea if it was enough, I did not watch the times the other guys were doing.
“The first few sessions were a bit daunting but once you build up a good rhythm, you can make time. The mountain section is just sensational. We’ve got the pace but we need to be there in the last two hours of the race.”
But Dennis and his co-drivers Matthieu Vaxiviere and Marvin Kirchhoefer will not be starting the race from pole, after Dennis was hit with a two-spot grid penalty for speeding in the pitlane during the earlier Qualifying session.
Raffaele Marciello (below) was the second driver out in the single-car session, and his time stood up until Dennis eclipsed him right at the end. The GruppeM entry will have another Mercedes AMG GT3 alongside, after Maro Engel set the third-fastest time.
Steven Kane gave Bentley a great result and will start fourth in the M-Sport Continental, while Australian David Reynolds will start from fifth in the leading A-P entry, which he will share with Luke Youlden and Yasser Shahin.
Fastest of the Audi drivers was Kelvin van der Linde, the South African just heading the quickest Porsche, Australian Matt Campbell lining up seventh in the Earl Bamber Motorsport 911 GT3-R.
Yelmer Buurman shone on Saturday to take the eighth-best time in the Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz, ahead of the Haase/Mies/Winkelhock Audi and the KCMG Nissan of Alexander Imperatori.
It was a tough day for last year’s polesitter Chaz Mostert, who wound up 15th in qualifying aboard the BMW Team Schnitzer M6 he will share with Augusto Farfus and Martin Tomczyk.
But the biggest shock of qualifying was the speed — or lack of it — of the Triple 8-run Mercedes. Jamie Whincup ended up 19th on the grid, nearly exactly a second behind the fastest Benz of Reynolds, and he and co-drivers Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen face an uphill battle on Sunday.
Fastest of the non-Class A cars was the MARC II of Andre de Pasquale. The Supercars regular was dazzling in running a 2m04.25s lap, which was discarded as it was faster than the car’s ‘anchor’ time of 2:05s. To make matters worse ‘ADP’ then sped in the pitlane, earning a two grid spot penalty for himself and co-drivers Paul Morris, car owner Keith Kassulke and Bathurst rookie Paul Tracy.
In Class B, Ben Barker needed only one lap to head the times in his Porsche GT3 Cup car, while Mathias Beche led the GT4 contenders in his KTM X-Bow.
Sunday’s race is due to start at 5:45 a.m. Sydney time.
Top 10 Shootout results:
1. Jake Dennis, R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage, 2:02.4946s
(Matthieu Vaxiviere/Marvin Kirchhoefer)
2. Raffaele Marciello, GruppeM Racing Mercedes AMG GT3, 2:02.9348s
(Maxi Buhk/Max Gotz)
3. Maro Engel, Craft Bamboo Mercedes AMG GT3, 2:03.0419s
(Luca Stolz/Gary Paffett)
4. Steven Kane, Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental, 2:03.1083s
(Jordan Pepper/Jules Gounon)
5. David Reynolds, The Bend Motorsport Park Mercedes AMG GT3, 2:03.1735s
(Yasser Shahin/Luke Youlden)
6. Kelvin van der Linde, Audi Sport Team Valvoline Audi R8, LMS 2:03.1791s
(Frederic Vervisch/Garth Tander)
7. Matt Campbell, Earl Bamber Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-R, 2:03.1863s
(Dirk Werner/Dennis Olsen)
8. Yelmer Buurman Team Nineteen Mercedes AMG GT3, 2:03.3646s
(Matt Griffith/Christina Nielsen)
9. Chris Haase, Audi Sport Team Valvoline Audi R8 LMS, 2:03.7828s
(Markus Winkelhock/Chris Mies)
10. Alex Imperatori ,KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, 2:04.1910s
(Oliver Jarvis/Eduardo Liberati)