Mercedes-AMG will start tomorrow’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli season opener from pole position thanks to a combination of Raffaele Marciello’s rapid lap and R-Motorsport’s exclusion from the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour Top-10 Shootout.
Jake Dennis initially claimed the Allan Simonsen Pole Position Award for winning the Shootout but was prevented from starting higher than third due to a two-place grid penalty. That subsequently became 12th when the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin was excluded for a technical infringement.
Thus it was GruppeM Racing’s Marciello who won the Allan Simonsen Pole Position Award after every contender other than Dennis tried and failed to better his early 2m02.9348s benchmark.
Team Craft-Bamboo Black Falcon’s Maro Engel helped Mercedes-AMG and Intercontinental GT Challenge entries seal a front row lockout by lapping a tenth shy of Marciello. The German was also 0.05s quicker than Bentley Team M-Sport’s Steven Kane who moved up to third at Dennis’ expense.
So congested is the midfield that positions three to six are covered by just 0.1s. David Reynolds was the penultimate driver to complete a lap after ending qualifying second fastest but slipped to fourth in the final reckoning behind Kane. Kelvin van der Linde’s rapid third sector helped the #22 Audi Sport Team Valvoline R8 LMS GT3 pip Matt Campbell’s EBM Porsche to fifth.
Yelmer Buurman was another driver to lose ground en route to seventh ahead of Christopher Haase’s Audi and KCMG’s #18 Nissan driven by Alexandre Imperatori. R-Motorsport’s demoted Aston Martin starts 12th as a result of its exclusion and additional two-place penalty.
The day’s earlier qualifying session saw several big names fail to make the Top-10 Shootout.
Last year’s pole winners, BMW, have work to do from 14th and 15th, Supercars stars Jamie Whincup, Shane van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes start only 19th, and both Ferraris face an uphill challenge to move forward from 20th and 23rd.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour begins just before dawn tomorrow at 05:45 AEDT (+11 GMT). Those outside Australia and New Zealand can watch the entire race live on the Intercontinental GT Challenge website and Facebook page. 7mate has live coverage in Australia while Sky Sports will broadcast the event across New Zealand.
Raffaele Marciello, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing: “Our goal was always to make the top-10 this morning so whether it was P9 or P1 doesn’t matter. We knew the car was strong and would have a chance in the Shootout. The track changed a little between the sessions, which partly explains why the times were slower, but Bathurst is also a difficult place to produce a fast time straight away. You need to build up and adapt if necessary. Some of the other guys made mistakes and they weren’t able to recover the time, whereas my lap was clean all the way around. I wasn’t fastest in any of the sectors; just consistent.”
Photo copyright: Mercedes-AMG