Erebus Racing will start Sunday’s Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour from the pole following a record-setting day of qualifying at Mount Panorama.
A late flyer by Maro Engel, who pedaled the No. 1 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to a scorching 2:03.858 lap time, saw the former V8 Supercars driver snatch the top spot away with less than two minutes on the clock.
The time smashed the event qualifying track record and gave the Erebus squad the inaugural Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy, as they seek back-to-back wins on the Mountain.
Engel, who will share the pole-winning car with Bernd Schneider and Nico Bastian, edged out the No. 88 Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 by just 0.084 seconds.
“We were hoping that we would get clear laps, so we did an out lap with a new set of tires on,” Engel explained. “The first lap we caught an Audi into the Chase, it was a pretty good lap until then, and it was a 2:04.00.
“I started my third lap and could feel my tires going off a tiny bit. I knew I still had that in hand, in the Chase, where everyone else lost time. I was just hoping it was going to be good enough and luckily we did a lap just quick enough.”
The Maranello Ferrari stood on the top of the time sheets for the majority of the day, thanks to Mika Salo’s 2:03.942 lap time set late in the first session. However, the team elected to keep the car in the garage for the afternoon.
“I had a clear lap in the morning, which was lucky,” Salo said. “It wasn’t a very clean lap, I made a couple of mistakes, there was a little bit more in it.”
V8 star Shane van Gisbergen reeled off a 2:04.000 in the final session to put the No. 37 VIP McLaren MP4-12C third on the starting grid, ahead of the sister No. 63 Erebus Merc in fourth, thanks to Will Davison’s 2:04.256, also set in the closing minutes.
The No. 32 Nismo Athlete Global Team Nissan GT-R will start from fifth overall on the grid, ahead of the No. 23 Lago Lamborghini, which upgraded its Gallardo to 2013-spec this morning and will now compete in Class A.
Top qualifying honors in Class B went to the No. 14 Rotek Racing Audi R8 LMS of Oliver Gavin, Rob Huff, Kevin Gleason and Richard Meins, thanks to Gavin’s 2:07.999 lap time set in the first session.
Other pole-sitters included the No. 50 MARC Cars Australia Focus (Class I), No. 42 Motorline BMW M3 (Class D), No. 17 Griffith Corporation Ginetta G50 (Class C) and the No. 95 Fiat Arbarth Motorsport (Class F).
A total of 42 cars set qualifying times but only 40 are expected to start, following a heavy accident by the No. 77 AF Corse Ferrari of Steve Wyatt in the second qualifying session.
It came following a weekend-ending shunt for Jason Bright in the No. 5 Skwirk Audi in the morning, who was transported to an area hospital for a precautionary MRI.
The Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour takes the green flag Sunday at 6:15 a.m. local time (Saturday, 2:15 p.m. ET) with live video coverage at http://www.bathurst12hour.com.au/
RESULTS: Qualifying (Combined)