As the checkered flag fell to end the first qualifying session for the 2014 Liqui–Moly Bathurst 12 Hours Mika Salo broke new territory lapping the Mount Panorama circuit in 2:03.942 to take provisional pole for the race with two qualifying sessions left on the schedule for Saturday.
It was a fitting end to the first session during which teams fought for a new pole position trophy for the race named in honour of Allan Simonsen, who drove with Salo and the rest of Maranello Motorsport team at the race 12 months ago.
A majority of the 60 minute session was taken up in a pair of red flags after only a handful of laps. On the first flying lap Jason Bright’s single car accident at Reid Park triggered a two car accident. With Bright’s skwirk.co.au sponsored Audi R8 LMS broadside in the middle of the track the Porsches of Shane Smollen and Garth Walden both tried to squeeze by on the same piece of tarmac, meaning neither escaped without damage, Smollen’s #19 getting the worst of the damage with the front right corner all but destroyed.
The clear up after the accident ate up much of the hour long session, and when the session restarted the Daytona Sportscar that led class D for much of Friday’s running spun exiting The Cutting, punching the nose of the car against the concrete wall prompting a second red flag.
With 15 minutes remaining the session restarted, the fastest drivers and car finally given the time and laps to rise to the top of the times.
As well as Salo in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 Maro Engel in the #1 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes, Rick Kelly in the NISMO Nissan GT-R GT3 and Shane van Gisbergen in the Darrell Lea sponsored McLaren MP4-12C GT3 were all heavily involved in the battle for the top time in the session.
After losing a potential pole lap to traffic at Forrests Elbow Salo hooked up a near perfect lap to break the practice/qualifying lap record for the third time already in the race weekend, the Finns lap lopping another half second off the time set by Engel in Friday’s final practice session.
Oakley Motorsports’ Audi R8 – driven by a line-up including Oliver Gavin and Rob Huff was the best of the Class B cars with a fastest lap of 2:07.999.
The Griffith Corporation team continued to dominate Class C with their Ginetta G50, 28th fastest overall with a time of 2:19.306.
Despite problems of their own – the car returning to the pits in the closing minutes sporting bodywork damage – the Motorline BMW team led Class D, helped somewhat by the accident that kept the Daytona Sportscars team out of the sharp end of the session.
The best of the three V8 powered MARC Focus in the race was 19th fastest overall (2:14.346), the best of the three Abarth 500s 35th fastest of the 41 cars to set a lap time during the session.