A blistering lap from Christopher Mies late in the second qualifying session handed the JAMEC PEM Audi R8 LMS pole position ahead of Saturday’s CAMS Australian GT Championship opener at Highlands Motorsport Park.
The German lapped the picturesque 4.1-kilometre circuit in 1:31.272 seconds to edge out Grant Denyer and Come Ledogar in the Just Cuts McLaren 650S GT3 who also improved late in the day to secure a spot on the front row of the grid.
Pole position for the Mies/Bates combination ensured Audi of an unbeaten string of pole positions throughout the 2016 CAMS Australian GT Championship season, a sequence that stretches back to the Highlands Motorsport Park at the end of 2015.
For Mies, it was a stirring recovery after an incident for Tony Bates in the opening qualifying session after he brushed the wall at the exit of the final turn.
Fast work from the Audi Sport Customer Racing team got the back on track for Qualifying 2, the German besting Craig Baird’s fastest as the session built to its exciting climax.
Bates wasn’t alone in brushing the wall as Andrew Miedecke also came unstuck at the tricky right-hander leading back onto the front straight.
Indeed, the tough Highlands Motorsport Park took no prisoners throughout the day as both Tony Walls’ Objective Racing McLaren 650S GT3 and the Nissan GT Academy Team Kelly entry of Matt Simmons and Michael Caruso was forced out with damage to their cars in separate incidents.
Championship leader Klark Quinn set the best time in opening qualifying, holding a seven-tenth advantage over the field before the pack chased down and bettered his benchmark in the second session.
Quinn lowered his own best but will start seventh as his rivals also found time, points-rival Nathan Morcom will take the flag two spots up the grid in the Direct Plasterboards Outlet McLaren 650S GT3.
In championship terms, it leaves the pair as they were heading into qualifying, having both scored 13-points across the two sessions.
Conditions in the second session saw much of the field improve their times with the top eight cars on the grid all under Quinn’s opening session best.
Garth Tander was another of those to make late gains, No. 2 JAMEC PEM Audi R8 LMS with Steve McLaughlan who has stepped back into the car this weekend.
Making a stunning debut in the Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3, Michael Almond was immediately on the pace before handing over the co-driver Craig Baird.
The veteran Kiwi then quickly snared pole position in the second qualifying session, holding top spot confidently throughout until being pipped in the final minutes.
Audi’s run of consecutive pole positions now stands at seven, two clear of Lamborghini and Mercedes who share second place on the all-time leader board.
Five different manufacturers are represented in the top ten, with the top eleven cars split by less than a second across a hugely competitive field of GT3 machinery
Saturday’s on-track action kicks off with a 20-minute warm-up session two 60-minute races to complete the CAMS Australian GT Championship, the result of which will see the crowning of the 2016 champion.