Shane van Gisbergen set the fastest time of the first day of track action at the Mount Panorama circuit late in fourth free practice session for the Bathurst 12 Hour.
The former 12 Hour winner, driving the No. 888 Triple Eight Engineering 2020-spec Mercedes, set a 2m03.964s, the quickest time of the day and the only time under a 2m04s. This book-ended a strong first day for Mercedes and its AMG GT3, which topped all three combined sessions with a different car fastest in each one.
Second on the timing screens was the Triple Eight team’s second car, the Pro-Am-entered No. 777 Mercedes AMG, with Anton De Pasquale touring the circuit in low 2:04’s, setting three personal best’s in a row before managing a 2m04.168s during his stint in the car.
Third on the screens was the No. 222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline R8, after Kelvin van der Linde’s 2m04.477s. The outfit’s sister No. 22 Audi ended up just outside the top three after Christopher Mies’s best time. The top five on this occasion was completed by the No. 999 GruppeM Mercedes AMG.
There were two significant no-shows in this one, neither Bentley setting laps, meaning 36 cars set competitive times. Both cars have suffered issues today, with the No. 8 developing a sensor problem in FP3. The problem was fixed, but so late in the session that the team opted to sit the final minutes out.
M-Sport’s No. 7 has had a worse time, the car undergoing a full engine change after a drivetrain issue. However, a Bentley spokesperson told RACER that the team expects both cars to be ready for FP5 tomorrow.
There was a red flag in the session after about 10 minutes of running after Sergey Afanasiev found the wall coming down the mountain in the No. 46 Black Falcon Mercedes making significant front-end contact with the wall in the Esses. Thankfully he was able to get the car back to the pits.
Scott Dixon also had a moment, and a lucky escape in the No. 76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin; the car spun on the entry to Forrest Elbow, making light contact with the inside wall. It appeared though that the car suffered no visible damage and was able to continue without further troubles.
The No. 91 Scandia Racer Industries MARC II set the best non-GT3 time to end the day, a 2m06.409s.
Track action for the Bathurst 12 Hour field continues Saturday at 8:45 a.m. local time, with the fifth practice session ahead of qualifying.
Reynolds tops FP3
David Reynolds, the 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner, posted the fastest time during Free Practice 3 Thursday in the SunEnergy1 Mercedes. The No. 75 Mercedes (running in Class A Pro Am), which U.S. fans will recognize from the team’s time spent in IMSA, ended up with a 2m04.932m late in the session.
The No. 77 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes ended up second, with a 2m05.167s. Engel’s incident in FP2 has had no impact on the team’s weekend it seems, a team member telling RACER that the now-repaired car had suffered a rear-suspension failure which caused Engel’s off.
KCMG’s No. 18 Nissan GT-R GT3 of Joao Paulo Lima De Oliveira was third just three tenths off. It remains to be seen whether or not the sister car, which had a big off in Free Practice 1, will make the race.
Two Mercedes completed the top five, the No. 999 GruppeM example ahead of the No. 888 from Triple Eight.
Porsche’s fastest 911 GT3 R was once again the No. 1 Earl Bamber Motorsport car, which ended up sixth, eight tenths off the benchmark pace.
The weather trackside continues to be a talking point here, the temperature close to 40 degrees celsius/104 fahrenheit during the early afternoon.
Thankfully, despite the heat, it was a clean session from start to finish. The only notable incidents affected the two M-Sport Bentleys, Matthew Wilson telling RACER that the No. 8 had an sensor problem and the No. 7 with an undiagnosed drivetrain problem.