Laurens Vanthoor backed up the pace he showed in the final practice session for the 2015 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour by putting his Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra on pole position for the race at the end of the two qualifying sessions for the lead cars.
The pre-race activity came to a crescendo with the 20 minute finale given over exclusively to the GT3 Class A team to decide the front portion of the grid. The GT3 cars, which numbered 26 for the final session, did however run in the earlier session with Christopher Mies setting the fastest time for the Hallmarc/Network Clothing team in their Audi. The ##15 Phoenix entry, which Vanthoor shares with Marco Mapelli and Markus Winkelhock was third fastest, the pair of R8s sandwiching the AF Corse entered Ferrari.
As the slower cars left the circuit to set-up the 20 minute shootout though the lap times came tumbling down, Mies’ 2:04.219 left in the dust as Vanthoor claimed a place in Mount Panorama folklore by turning the fastest ever official lap of the Bathurst circuit, just 2:02.522, on his final lap of the session.
“I was very happy to have a free lap at the end and put it all together and it was a nice moment to have pole here at Mount Panorama,” said Vanthoor after the session. “Of course qualifying for such a big race is just a small point but it is a good point to start the weekend. I expected a low ‘three’ would be impossible this morning but the 2.02.5 was not what I really expected, with qualifying though you push everything and I almost put the car into three pieces a few times.”
David Russell, who led two of Friday’s four practice sessions in the JBS Australia Lamborghini ensured that the Gallardo will line up on the outside of the front row for Sunday morning’s start. The Queensland racer had sat on provisional pole for much of the shootout, but found his time (2:03.175) beaten by over half a second by Vanthoor in the final moments.
The JBS team, completed by team owner Roger Lago and Steve Owen will be hoping to avoid the bad luck that has dogged Lamborghini teams at Bathurst. Last year the team’s race was ended early after Peter Kox struck a kangaroo.
“The last few years has been tough for us,” admitted Lago, “especially last year with the kangaroo. We are only a very small team – a few guys are mates and a few guys are mechanics. The guys have done a good job, the crew has done a great job, Steven hasn’t really had much of an opportunity to punch some times out, so you watch him tomorrow. These guys aren’t mugs, they do it for a living and they do it for a reason, so it is tough for me to keep my end of the bargain up!”
As they had done in many of the practice sessions the NISMO Athlete Global Team topped the all-Am element of the GT3 cars. Katsumasa Chiyo was given the responsibility of qualifying the car and set a 2:03.297 on his second trip up and down the mountain. On his third circuit, however, the Japanese driver spun into the wall at The Cutting, backing the GT-R into the wall, putting an end to any chances of another quick lap time from the team.
“I heard that we were P2 and to keep pushing,” said Chiyo. “I did but I made a mistake coming into turn four, suddenly the rear came around and I couldn’t control it.”
Michele Rugolo put the AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 that was second in the first qualifying session fourth fastest with Stefan Mucke fifth fastest in the #97 Craft Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage.
Defending polestitter Erebus Motorsport were represented by two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 in the session, the best of which qualified seventh fastest. Mies could not repeat his performance from the initial qualifying session, setting the tenth best time in the session.
Though the Vicious Rumour Racing Ferrari was towed off the circuit in the first session both the #11 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 and the #99 Craft Bamboo Racing Aston set the 21st and 22nd best times in the shootout to confirm their places in the race despite both teams having faced repair jobs during the practice sessions. Defending race winners Maranello Motorsport, were, unfortunately unable to qualify following Tony D’Alberto’s crash at the end of the first practice session.
The Superbarn Supermarkets entered car will start on pole for Class B, setting the 26th best time (2:09.9110) in the first session. The #93 V8 Focus entered by MARC Cars Australia was 30th fastest overall in leading the non-Production Invitees of Class I.
Ben Shoots qualified the Daytona Sportscar, which at seven litres boasts the largest engine in race, fastest in Class D with the Donut King Lotus Exige fastest in Class C, for GT4 machinery.