Connect with us

Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bathurst Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook on the eve of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour IGTC round…

Photo: Mark Horsburgh

***Chaz Mostert became the first two-time recipient of the Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy, courtesy of his 2:02.493 lap time to win an engaging qualifying duel with Kelvin van der Linde. The 0.086-second pole margin between the pair was the closest in Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour history.

***It marked the first Audi pole at the Bathurst 12 Hour in seven years, or six editions. Until Saturday evening, Laurens Vanthoor’s 2:02.552 in a Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra was the most recent Allan Simonsen award for the German brand.

***Backing up Vanthoor’s pole ended a long streak of different GT3 manufacturers topping Bathurst qualifying. Six brands – Audi, McLaren, Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche – took pole in the years between 2015 and 2020.

***Audi is now the most successful manufacturer in Bathurst qualifying, with four pole positions scored.

***Mostert paid tribute to Simonsen, whose name was added to the Bathurst 12 Hour pole accolade in 2014 following his death after an accident at the previous year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. “Allan was amazing down here in GT3,” Mostert said. “He was always so nice around the pits and a great competitor. We should really pump up this award because it’s a pretty special one.”

***Kelvin van der Linde suggested that the emergency 15-minute session format used for Top 10 qualifying benefited the Audi crews: “I think the Audi typically struggles with the front tire heat, and the Merc would have been better in a one-lap shootout. So we benefited from that, but we’ll see if it’s a completely different story in the race tomorrow.”

***Jules Gounon, who qualified third in the top Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, felt that the qualifying format change was a good move. “Even though I loved the format of doing one lap, today and this year it was too complicated with cold tires,” he said. “We said before quali that it makes no sense to risk a car on cold tires for one lap. So I think it was the right call from the race director.”

***Audi’s stranglehold on the build-up sessions extended into qualifying, although Shane van Gisbergen’s effort during the first 15-minute Top 10 session prevented the R8s from leading all 10 of the on-track opportunities.

***Mostert reckons that the Audis have met “perfect conditions” so far and that it might not be so straightforward for them in the race. “Every time in Free Practice when it’s been cold, the speed has been in it,” he said. “But we kind of struggle when it gets a bit warmer; who knows what the weather could do tomorrow. Every time I come here there’s a Bathurst God that has picked a winner: we’ve just to go and play the story out tomorrow.”

***Melbourne Performance Centre fired up its No. 47 Audi in the garage around lunchtime on Saturday afternoon, after building the replacement car up throughout the morning. The Supabarn Am-class car made it out to complete a few laps in qualifying but was not classified since only one driver took the wheel.

***That Audi and the Team BRM example, as well as the Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, are expected to start from the back of the grid after not completing the two preliminary qualifying sessions due to their respective setbacks in the build-up. An event spokesperson told Sportscar365 that teams in this situation have the choice of starting from the back or from the pit lane.

***The No. 91 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG hit a kangaroo during Friday night practice, although this was unrelated to its Saturday engine change. Maro Engel was able to keep going after the ‘skippy’ jumped in front of him early on the Conrod Straight. “It dented the roof and A-pillar, and we lost a side mirror,” said team director Darryl O’Young, who suggested that the largely front-on contact prevented the car from pitching into the wall. The kangaroo’s fate is unknown.

***Triple Eight Race Engineering tested at Queensland Raceway to prepare for its Bathurst 12 Hour program, according to Bronze driver Prince Jefri Ibrahim. “There are lots more things that we needed to prepare on the car compared to our sprint races,” he told Sportscar365.

***Ibrahim said that he intends to focus on Australian and Asian racing this year. Asked if he plans to venture into Europe, he said: “To be honest, not this year. But hopefully in the future I can. For now, we’re just going to focus on Australia and Asia. It’s good to see that everything is starting to open up again. We have a big year ahead of us and more to come in the future.”

***Triple Eight’s crew including drivers Ibrahim and Shane van Gisbergen are heading straight to Malaysia on Monday for the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS opener at Sepang. It is set to mark the first GTWC Asia race since September 2019.

***As part of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia initiative on the No. 222 Cup-class entry, for a $50 AED donation spectators and anyone in the paddock can sign the car that is being driven by Craig Lowndes, Geoff Emery, Alex Davison and Scott Taylor.

***Lowndes is driving anything other than an FIA GT3 car at the Bathurst 12 Hour for the first time since 1994. He did the first three GT3 editions in Audis, before winning with Ferrari squad Maranello Motorsport in 2014 and 2017. The last three 12 Hours saw Lowndes at the helm of McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche machinery.

***The seven-time Supercars champion’s last non-GT3 appearance at the event came behind the wheel of a Nissan Pulsar, in which he won the B class with Phil and John Morriss. He didn’t contest the race for 16 editions before returning in 2011 with GT3.

***Gounon noted that he had an interesting experience driving Mount Panorama this year, considering he is now in a left-hand drive car, as opposed to the right-hand drive Bentley Continental GT3. The Frenchman joined Mercedes-AMG at the start of 2021.

***As well as being the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season-opener, the Bathurst 12 Hour also kicks off the two-round Motorsport Australia Endurance Championship for some of the national teams. That competition concludes at the Bathurst International in November.

***Grove Racing replaced some of the parts on its Porsche 911 GT3 R after qualifying, following Stephen Grove’s accident at the end of Practice 6. The team owner and driver told Sportscar365 that a helicopter was dispatched on Saturday afternoon to bring the necessary spares to Bathurst from Wollongong, south of Sydney.

***Stephen and Brenton Grove are set to represent Australia in the FIA Motorsport Games at Marseille later this year. The pair claimed a Bronze medal in the Pro-Am event when it was last held at Vallelunga in 2019.

***Grove has assembled an in-house team to run its Bathurst entry this time around, after leaning on technical support from Herberth Motorsport for its maiden GT3 run at the race in 2020. The squad is a mixture of staff from the team’s projects. “It’s a combination of our GT program and our Supercars team,” Grove said. “It’s really good; a good crew of guys.”

***The starting drivers on the front three rows of the grid will be Chaz Mostert (No. 65 Audi), Kelvin van der Linde (No. 74 Audi), Luca Stolz (No. 75 Mercedes-AMG), Markus Winkelhock (No. 777 Audi), Broc Feeney (No. 888 Mercedes-AMG) and Dean Fiore (No. 9 Audi).

***Live coverage of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will be available on the GT World YouTube channel, IGTC Facebook page and event website for audiences outside Australia and New Zealand. Fox Sports 506, Kayo Sports and Seven are providing live and ad-free TV coverage in the home markets.

***The race start is set for 5:15 a.m. Fog could potentially play a factor in the early stages of the race, with Mount Panorama enveloped in a thick layer on Saturday morning.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

Click to comment

More in Intercontinental GT Challenge