A ‘lap of the gods’ from a superstar New Zealand driver has dominated the headlines in qualifying for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour today.
A breathtaking 2m01.286s lap by Shane van Gisbergen delivered TEKNO Autosports pole for Australia’s longest race – taking Bathurst lap times into the two minute and one second barrier for the first time.
It was shades of 2003 and Greg Murphy’s famous lap as the Mountain was again left breathless by a remarkable qualifying effort from a Kiwi hero.
The Kiwi driver – who will share the No. 59 McLaren 650S GT3 with Portuguese driver Alvaro Parente and Jonathan Webb – launched an attack on Mount Panorama in qualifying and was the first driver in the history of the circuit to officially go beneath the 2m02 barrier.
The 2016 pole time is a full 1.3 seconds quicker than last year’s benchmark, and in a dominant performance was 0.5s quicker than the second-placed car.
It’s the first Bathurst pole position for the iconic McLaren brand in what turned out to be a banner day for the famous New Zealand marque: their four cars qualified first, third, fifth and sixth for Sunday’s race.
"The car has been amazing all weekend. We've mainly been doing race set ups on high fuel so it's been pretty good. With qualifying we just put it all on the table and did what we could,” van Gisbergen said.
"It was pretty awesome to see that number come up on the dash, I was pretty pumped about that. We're not really excelling over the top but the car is good in every sector."
Audi Jamec-Pem Racing qualified second, Rene Rast’s 2m01.840s meaning he, Garth Tander and Steve McLaughlin will start the start the race from the front row of the grid at 5:45am Sunday morning.
While Tander and McLaughlin watched from pit lane, Rast stormed up the order in qualifying to end the day in second.
"It was actually a perfect session,” The German Audi factory driver said.
“We had five or six flyers in Q1 and had a good feeling for the car and then went into Q2 and warmed up my tyres for a few laps and we made the best out of it. We’re pretty happy with P2 Shane did an awesome lap and I couldn't beat him today!"
Objective Racing made it a McLaren 1-3 result by qualifying third: Warren Luff surging to the front of the field in the jet-black 650S he will share tomorrow with Matt Campbell, Tony Walls and Tim Slade.
"We're obviously very happy to have P3 and to get into the 2:01s,” said Luff.
“I probably sort of made a bit of a meal of the last sector. I got a bit excited when I came onto the Conrod and saw what was predicted on the dash and was a bit soft on the breaks through the chase. But we're very happy, the four of us have put plenty of miles on the car. Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day."
The sister Jamec-Pem Audi (Christoper Mies / Christoper Haase / Marco Mapelli) qualified fourth and another McLaren – the Darrell Lea entry – was fifth.
A superb lap by former Australian GT champion Klark Quinn set the early pace in today’s practice session and was enough to retain a top five place at the line. He will share his McLaren with Tony Quinn and Craig Baird on Sunday.
Grove Racing secured pole position in the battle of the Porsches in Rydges Class B, a scorching 2m08.74s lap by V8 Supercars star Scott McLaughlin enough to secure them the top spot in class by over a second.
Much like the fight for outright pole, the Class B benchmark tumbled as McLaughlin lapped more than one second faster than the class pole time last year.
McLaughlin’s former Volvo V8 teammate, David Wall, lifted the WATSO Workplace Porsche to second in class and Kiwi Chris van der Drift did the driving duties in the third-placed Mobil 1 New Zealand Porsche.
A mighty effort from the Daytona coupe secured them a pole position in the BM-Pro invitational class with a 2m10.864s lap.
Continuing the theme of a record-setting day, the Melbourne-built Coupe was scored at an incredible 306.5km/hr in a straight line down Conrod Straight.
MARC Cars Australia qualified second and third in class: the no. 93 Ford Focus driven by Jake Camilleri, Aaron Seton and Morgan Haber edging out the No. 94 entry of Gerard McLeod, Bryce Fullwood and Nicholas Rowe.
The third-placed car was repaired overnight following a hefty crash at Forrest Elbow in practice yesterday.
Qualifying had barely begun before a red flag halted proceedings – Benny Simonsen crashing the Vicious Rumour Racing Ferrari at Reid Park after oversteering and clipping the wall.
The car later returned to the track to qualify 21st for tomorrow’s race.
A second red flag was called later in the opening 60-minute qualifying session when Will Bamber crashed his Porsche heavily at McPhillamy Park. The New Zealander was unharmed and walked unaided from his Porsche though the status of the car is unknown ahead of the race start.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will begin at 5.45am AEDST tomorrow Sunday February 7 and will be televised live on the Seven Network across Australia.