***Toni Vilander said he had some “strong emotions” after claiming the Allan Simonsen Pole Trophy on Saturday. “I saw Allan for the first time in 1994 when I raced in Denmark and at the race where he had the issue, with the big accident and I talked with him on the grid so it’s not an easy moment,” Vilander said in the post-qualifying press conference.
***It marked the second Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour pole for the Maranello squad, which Simonsen drove for while in Australia.
***Co-driving with V8 Supercars stars Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup, Vilander stressed the importance of having a clean race tomorrow. “There’s a lot of new things going on for my teammates, so we really need to keep it simple and stay out of trouble,” he told Sportscar365. “V8 guys are used to leaning on each other and use a little bit of bumper and we cannot do it here.”
***The No. 59 Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S GT3 was due to take part in the Pirelli Top 10 Shootout but was ruled out after Ben Barnicoat’s crash in Q1. The 2016 race-winning chassis sustained damage and is in jeopardy of taking part in tomorrow’s race, although an effort is being made for chassis parts to be flown in from Tony Quinn’s shop in Queensland overnight.
***Tekno’s No. 1 McLaren was promoted to the Top 10 Shootout as a result, and qualified sixth in the hands of defending race winner Alvaro Parente. The car, however, will be forced to start from the pit lane as the team will change engines.
***Both of the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s missed out on the Top 10 Shootout, with the No. 23 car of Alex Bumcombe qualifying 12th and Jann Mardenborough set to start 14th, in the rebuilt No. 24 Nissan. It came after further drama on Saturday morning for Katsumasa Chiyo, who clouted the wall and damaged the No. 23 car’s right-front suspension in final practice.
***While the No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 qualified 5th, the No. 17 Bentley has struggled so far this weekend, with unidentified issues for the Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Olly Jarvis-driven car. Jarvis, in his team debut, told Sportscar365 they have yet to come to the bottom of the pace deficit, which has affected all three drivers.
***Jarvis, along with Vincent Abril, make their debuts at Mt. Panorama, which has been an eye-opening experience for the young Frenchman. “You do track walks, you do simulators, you do all that stuff but until you get there in the car, you can’t imagine it,” Abril told Sportscar365. “I was really feeling blessed when I was driving, as not a lot of people get to do it.”
***Maro Engel told Sportscar365 that the Mercedes-AMG GT3s are at a straight-line speed disadvantage to the turbocharged cars. None of the AMG GT3s, in its Bathurst debut, managed to end up in the Top 10 Shootout, which was largely dominated by BMW M6 GT3 cars.
***Engel is set for a busy 2017 season, with the German having recently been confirmed in a full-time return to DTM with Mercedes, while also continuing with Formula E duties, as well as selected GT3 races, including the Nürburgring 24 and VLN races.
***The FIA GT World Cup could change venues this year after the controversial second running in Macau. A GT3 manufacturer representative indicated to Sportscar365 that a proposal for a move to Paul Ricard has been floated around, although a final decision is understood to not have been taken.
***A contingent of crew from Pirelli World Challenge squad EFFORT Racing/Calvert Dynamics and AIM Autosport are assisting the Competition Motorsports and Wall Racing teams, respectively, this weekend.
***AIM Autosport team principal/engineer Ian Willis, along with Matt Wivell, who served as crew chief on the No. 05 Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Bryan Heitkotter, are assisting the Wall-operated, ex-AER Nissans, one of which is driven by Erik Davis in his GT3 debut.
***Stefan Pfeiffer, who engineered the EFFORT and Calvert Dynamic Porsche 911 GT3 Rs last year, is with the Bob Faieta-owned Competition Motorsports squad this year, alongside crew chief Dave Gahagan, also formerly of EFFORT. Dave’s wife, Erin, who recently became team manager for Tequila Patron ESM, is also on-site.
***Mark Webber is among the dignitaries here this weekend, supporting Porsche’s increased factory supported GT3 effort as brand ambassador. Remarkably, the F1 and sports car rscing veteran hasn’t raced at Mt. Panorama since his Australian Formula Ford days in the 1990s.
***Bentley Motorsport Director Brian Gush confirmed the team’s Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup driver pairings of Steven Kane/Vincent Abril, Maxime Soulet/Andy Soucek will remain unchanged, despite Abril moving to the No. 8 car for the Endurance Cup races. “We had agree to that before we got Olly [Jarvis] on board,” Gush told Sportscar365.
***Bentley could have an increased effort at the Nürburgring 24, with the potential return of the M-Sport squad alongside two works-supported entries from Team ABT. Gush said the German team will focus its efforts on the N24 and VLN races and will not return to ADAC GT Masters, at least on a full-time basis.
***Gush, meanwhile, has essentially ruled out a Bentley DPi effort for the time being. “We think it’s a great concept and [Daytona] proved it,” he said. “If the planets aligned, we’d love to do it but at the moment we’re concentrating on GT3.”
***Watch the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour tomorrow, with live coverage on NISMO.tv, featuring Radio Le Mans commentary, beginning Sunday at 5:45 a.m. local time, or Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET. Listings of multiple time zones are below, courtesy of Nissan. The race will also be streamed for international viewers on http://bathurst12hour.com.au.