The pole-sitting No. 65 Coinspot Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II led the opening stint of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which started under safety car conditions due to fog.
Chaz Mostert led the field away when the safety car was released 10 minutes after the 5:15 a.m. start time and kept Kelvin van der Linde’s No. 74 Audi Sport Team Valvoline car at bay throughout the hour.
Foggy conditions persisted at Mount Panorama, with drivers reporting tough visibility in the higher sections of the circuit.
After handing his Audi over to Liam Talbot during a safety car phase at the end of the hour, Mostert described the conditions as “dangerous”.
“That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever done in a car,” he told the official TV broadcast.
“It’s so dangerous out there. You can’t see apexes or walls. It’s worse when you’re out front you don’t have a guy to follow. I feel really bad for the Ams.
“The Skyline for me is the most dangerous part of the track. You can write a car off up there and get injured; it’s bad. It was pretty bad at the start. To be honest, we shouldn’t have started, I think.”
The second safety car occurred after 45 minutes when Zane Morse struck the right-side wall at Reid Park in the No. 52 Invitational-class MARC Cars Mustang.
At that stage, Mostert and van der Linde had broken away from the rest of the field, with Luca Stolz around 11 seconds behind in the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Markus Winkelhock ranked fourth in the No. 777 Audi, ahead of Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG driver Broc Feeney and Ben Barker in the Grove-run Porsche 911 GT3 R.
SunEnergy1 dropped behind the No. 777 Audi Sport Team Valvoline car and also Triple Eight during the driver changes.
Yasser Shahin, who took over the reins of the No. 777 car from Winkelhock, was then handed a drive-through for passing Feeney under safety car conditions.
Feeney remained in the Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG for the second stint, while Brad Schumacher hopped into the No. 74 Audi after van der Linde’s opening run.
Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Maro Engel climbed to 12th overall from the back row of the grid, a position that was sealed by the Mercedes team’s Saturday engine change.
Engel then made an off-sequence compulsory stop after approximately half an hour, with Craft-Bamboo aiming to work its way into contention over the next few hours.