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GruppeM & Team Valvoline Set Early Pace At Bathurst

Top 10 within a second while Craft-Bamboo and KCMG suffer early incidents

The start of track action for the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour saw a 30-minute Am-only session before an hour-long FP2 which saw the full field open to the track. Warming conditions greeted the field this morning, with hotter conditions expected later today and over the weekend.

The Am-only FP1 session allowed the Bronze and Silver drivers half an hour of track time to themselves before the full field launched onto the circuit. It was Yassir Shahin in the #777 The Bend Motorsport Park Mercedes AMG that set the early pace, before Joshua Burdon in the #35 KCMG Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 topped the session with a 2:06.5531. Important to note that while Burdon is driving in the Pro class, his silver rating allowed his participation in the session.

The session went awry for Burdon however, with an incident that caused the end of the session to be called ahead of time. Coming through Reid park, the car ran wide, making contact with the wall drivers left under the tree. The impact plucked the left-rear wheel off the car and delayed the start of the full field FP2 session by 20 minutes.

As a result, FP2 was shortened to 50 minutes. Maro Engel in the #77 Craft-Bamboo Black Falcon Mercedes AMG was the first to fire a lap in anger, dropping into the low 2:05’s, ahead of Kelvin van der Linde in the #222 Audi Sport Team Valvoline R8.

As the temperatures rose, the lap times dropped. Rafaele Marciello in the #999 GruppeM Mercedes AMG was the first to drop into the 2:04’s, with a 4.7819 midway through the session. Kelvin van der Linde had the opportunity to go ahead of the Mercedes with a purple first and middle sector, but a slow run down Conrod Straight slotted the #222 into second, one hundredth behind.

The session was red-flagged for two separate incidents with 15 minutes remaining. The #12 Earl Bamber Motorsports Porsche ground to a halt at The Elbow with Romain Dumas at the wheel, requiring a flat tow. The more significant incident was at the exit of Griffins Bend; Maro Engel backing the #77 car into the wall on the exit, damaging the right rear of the car. Interestingly, while that car finished the session in third with a 2:05.1447, the team was unsatisfied with the balance of the car, working on the rear of the Mercedes AMG prior to Engel’s incident.

The session was restarted with 5 minutes left, and saw minimal movement in the times, with many teams electing to give their third driver a short string of laps. A late problem for the #60 59Racing McLaren saw it shut down at the top of the mountain as the session ended.

The top 5 was completed by the #22 Audi Sport Team Valvoline R8 with Christopher Mies at the wheel, and the #1 Earl Bamber Porsche at the hands of Laurens Vanthoor, while the top 10 cars were within a second of the lead.

The leading Pro-Am car placed 11th; Ben Barker putting the #4 Grove Motorsport Porsche just outside the 10, while Dean Canto piloted the #29 Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini to the Silver class lead, 29th overall. Nick Percat set the fastest Invitational class time, ending the session in 17th with a 2:06.9 in the #91 MARC II Mustang, while the lead GT4 car was the Team 19 Mercedes AMG GT4.

38 of the 39 car field set a time in FP2; Joshua Burdon’s #35 the only car missing after his FP1 shunt. The #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin suffered lengthy delays with a left-rear driveshaft problem but managed to make it out on track late in the session.

FP3 for the 12 Hour field starts at 12:20 local time (AEDT), with FP4 at 15:00 this afternoon.