Maro Engel led the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour from pole with one hour of the race completed.
Engel, in the No. 999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, held a 4.8-second lead over the No. 888 Triple Eight Race Engineering Mercedes of Maxi Goetz, with the No. 912 Manthey EMA Porsche 911 GT3 R, driven by Thomas Preining in third.
While the opening hour ran caution-free it was not without incident, as the No. 74 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II crashed out in the hands of Christopher Haase after contact from the No. 44 Valmont Racing Mercedes of Duvashen Padayachee.
Haase, whose Audi sustained right-rear suspension damage from the initial hit prior to the impact with the wall, limped the car back to the pits although it was found to have sustained chassis damage according to Head of Audi sport customer racing Chris Reinke.
It was Audi’s only all-pro lineup in the race, featuring Patrick Niederhauser and Mattia Drudi.
No further action was given by race control for the incident.
The pre-dawn start of the Australian international enduro, which doubles as a round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli, began in chilly ambient temperatures, which led officials to add an additional lap behind the safety car.
It resulted in a single-file start on Lap 2, with limited position changes up front despite post-qualifying Balance of Performance adjustments to all GT3 cars.
The top five at the hour mark was completed by the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes of Luca Stolz and Augusto Farfus’ No. 46 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3.