Raffaele Marciello (pictured above) and GruppeM Racing put Mercedes at the top of the times in the opening pair of practice sessions (the first a short session reserved for amateur drivers) ahead of the Bathurst 12 Hour this weekend.
During Free Practice too, with all drivers eligible to take to the circuit, Marciello quickly set a benchmark time, after five laps producing a 1m04.781s in the No. 999 2020-spec AMG GT3.
Just a tenth off was Kelvin van der Line in the No. 22 Audi R8 LMS, while German Maro Engel completed the top three in his Craft-Bamboo Black Falcon Mercedes with a 2m05.144s.
The headlines though, as is often the case at Mount Panorama, come in the form of dramas for some of the runners. There were two red flags during the morning sessions, with the first coming in FP1. Josh Burdon, moments after topping the session in the 2m06.551s in the No. 35 KCMG Nissan GT-R GT3, had a big off at Reid Park, the car running wide and hitting the wall on driver’s left. The impact was severe, damaging the left-rear corner of the Nissan, ripping the wheel off.
At this point the team is unsure if and when it will be able to get the car out again. KCMG has two cars entered, but this is nevertheless a huge blow at such an early point in the weekend.
The second red came after two separate incidents that occurred at the same time with just 15 minutes remaining in FP2.
The first was the No. 13 Earl Bamber Motorsports Porsche stopping out on track at The Elbow with Romain Dumas at the wheel. The car eventually had to be towed. Engel then backed the No. 77 Mercedes into the wall at the exit of Griffins Bend, damaging the right rear of the car.
Outside of the top three in the times, the No. 22 Team Valvoline Audi ended up fourth with a 2m05.165s, while the fastest of the five GT3 Porsches, the defending champion No. 1 Earl Bamber Motorsports 911 GT3 R ended up fifth, after a 2m05.193s.
Elsewhere in the top 10 were the fastest cars from Bentley, Lamborghini and Nissan.
Outside of the GT3 runners, the best time was set by the No. 20 Local Search MARC II in the Invitational class, with a 2m08.724s.
UP NEXT: Third practice gets underway at 12:20 p.m. local time.