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Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hours – Practice Report
Ferrari And Audi Top The First Sessions At Bathurst

Free Practice 1 Times (PDF)
Free Practice 2 Times (PDF)

Free Practice 3 Times (PDF)

It was a titanic battle at the top of the time sheets at the 2013 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hours as the running got underway with three 50-minute practice sessions.

The weekend got underway under the morning sun with clear skies greeting the early session which started at 7:45am local time. The order of the day was to acclimatise the international drivers to the track - with good reason too, as 50 cars are on the 6.1 kilometre stretch of blind turns, big climbs and nasty descents.

Australian crowd favourite Craig Lowndes headed Practice 1 in his Audi R8 LMS, lapping in a 2:09.879 - not going near the 2:06 benchmark time. The drivers were well behaved with only a short red flag being waved for the #67 Porsche, which completed one lap before spewing fluid onto the track and pulling off.

The 2:09 times that were set in Practice 1 would not be representative, with the track needing to be rubbered in.  Out on top of the Mountain, the cars were evidently struggling for grip.  Greg Murphy in the Trofeo Corvette looked the most in control, and the top Pirelli-runner in fourth - three tenths off the Audi. 

The Clearwater Ferrari was being set up by Craig Baird - the man who has completed the most laps of the Mt Panorama circuit of anyone in the field.  He was just 0.026 of a second behind the Audi.  Third was the GB Galvinising Lamborghini.

It was also a triumphant session for the factory Peugeot RCZ squad, taking 1-2 in the Invitational 1 class.  The Australian contingent in the Peugeot are confident of punching above their weight, or power band, given the strength they have with their front-wheel drive and local knowledge across the top of the Mountain.

The Australian GT competitors in the Ginettas and Tony Quinn in the Aston Martin did not appear in practice 1.

Audi continued to set the pace in the second practice session, which was held in warm conditions and, again, clear skies.

The Lowndes/Salmon/Luff car would be the only car to crack into the 2:09s, with a 2:09.3 - over seven tenths ahead of the VIP Petfoods Porsche of reigning Australian GT Champion, Klark Quinn.  Klark is driving alongside father Tony and V8 regular Shane Van Gisbergen.

The Clearwater Ferrari did not feature in the top of the timesheets after allowing their unseeded driver, Mek Weng Sun, to drive the entire session.

The Mercedes of Erebus Motorsport started to get on the pace with the all-German lineup (Schneider/Jäger/Roloff) taking fourth behind the JBS Lamborghini (Lago/Russell/Kox). The only drama of the session was when the BMW 130i of Shepard/Garioch/Thomas suffered a small fire in the back of the car.

The third and final practice session of the day was held in the heat of the afternoon with the ambient temperature reaching above 33 degrees.  The track had also been rubbered-in by the previous 12 Hour sessions and numerous support categories.  This meant that the times fell and the running order change dramatically.

It was Dane Allan Simonsen in the Maranello Motorsports Ferrari - which had changed from Pirellis to Michelins – who stormed to the top of the field with a 2:08.5; again, not a threat to the 2:06 benchmark time.

The Australian contingent in the Erebus Mercedes SLS GT3 (Hackett/Slade/Holdsworth) joined in the 2:08 fun before the Clearwater Ferrari also joined in as the third car to reach 2:08.  The top three were separated by only one tenth of a second.

Simonsen was enthusiastic after the session; “Obviously the team has had a full year of GT Racing, and we’ve learnt a lot more about the car. I think we know a lot about the car, and also from the Ferrari side there are a lot of updates that have come to the car which hopefully will keep us going for twelve hours. Looking at the other 24 and 12 hour races that have been with the Ferrari 458, it’s proven to be a very reliable car; so I think if we can continue with the speed we had last year, and a bit of luck, hopefully the race can be ours this year.”

Mika Salo, driving alongside Simonsen, spoke about his first experience of the Mountain; “It was really great - the team have done an unbelievable amount of work.  It is an unbelievable circuit - I have only done a few laps and it is hard to get your head around the inclines and blind corners.”

Salo’s best time was a 2:14.1.

The German Erebus attack didn’t feature in top of the timesheets at the end of the day; the German trio concentrating on learning the track rather than outright times. 
The same was true for Rob Huff; the reigning WTCC Champion’s Audi deal coming together late in the day; “The day was tough but we set a few good times.  James Winslow and I really worked hard with the engineers and the car is moving in the right direction.”

The problem that drivers like Huff and the Erebus trio experienced was a tight, packed racetrack with massive speed difference and lines with the production cars when compared to the sportscars.

Additionally, there was a culture clash, with the European drivers and the Australian drivers having different definitions on how to give way.  The Australians indicated the way they wanted the other driver to go, while the Europeans indicated the way they were going.  This, while not causing an incident, will be discussed at the drivers’ meeting before qualifying.

The other European runners in Class A included the Liqui Moly BMW Z4 GT3, with a fastest time of 2:18.  The car looked loose across the Mountain and the lack of local experience in the car is showing.

United Autosports also struggled, with Brendon Hartley producing their best time after flying in on Thursday evening.  His best time was a 2:14.

The Phoenix Audi was also off the pace when compared to their 2012 efforts with Johan Krisoffersson being the best of their drivers with a 2:11.

The leading Class B car was the Porsche 997 GT3 Cup of Alex and James Davison and David Calver-Jones, with a time of 2:15.0.

Class C was headed by the Simply Sportscars Lotus Exige, which ran E85 fuel and finished ahead of the Swiss St Gallan Aston Martin.

Saturday will see a 90-minute qualifying session in the morning before a second 30 minute qualifying session at 1:40pm.

Free Practice 1 Times (PDF)
Free Practice 2 Times (PDF)

Free Practice 3 Times (PDF)

Sam Tickell