Ben Barnicoat led the first hour of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour after putting an early pass on Maxi Buhk as the No. 60 59Racing McLaren 720s GT3 set a blistering pace out front.
Buhk in the No. 999 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo was the biggest mover on the opening lap and sliced his way up the inside of the pole-sitting No. 911 Absolute Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Pilet at the first corner for the lead.
Pilet fell further back as a charging Barnicoat cleared the Porsche for second before the No. 18 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Alexandre Imperatori also found a way by at Turn 1 to go to third.
This dropped Pilet to fourth as Barnicoat pressured the Mercedes of Buhk for the lead.
Barnicoat put on a daring move to vault the McLaren into the lead as the Brit dived up the inside at The Chase of Buhk and set a blistering pace as he pulled away.
Behind the lead battle Luca Stolz in the No. 77 Craft-Bamboo Black Falcon Mercedes Evo passed Craig Lowndes’ No. 1 EBM Porsche to go to fifth, while a mistake from the latter saw Lowndes plummet outside the top 10.
By the end of the first hour, Barnicoat extended his lead to almost four seconds over Buhk, Imperatori, Pilet, and Stolz.
The No. 888 Triple Eight Mercedes of Maxi Goetz followed in sixth narrowly ahead of Jordan Pepper in the No. 7 Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3.
Marco Mapelli’s No. 63 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, Markus Winkelhock in the No. 222 Team Valvoline Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo and the No. 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Chaz Mostert completed the top-10.
An electronic glitch reportedly dropped the No. 76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 down the order to 24th after Rick Kelly started 10th and lost a significant chunk of time on the opening lap.
The No. 8 Bentley was 19th having made its way from the rear of the field at the start due to missing qualifying.