German ace Christopher Haase has claimed pole position for the first of two Australian GT Championship races at the picturesque Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand.
Doubling on the card which features the Highlands 101 marathon, Haase guided the Audi he is sharing with Steve McLaughlan to the top spot in 1:32.70 on his very first appearance in the Australian championship.
Set late in the second of two sessions, the effort just managed to edge Shane van Gisbergen, who recorded a 1:32.75 best in Klark Quinn’s McLaren.
The second row will be an all-Audi affair with Nathan Antunes and Christopher Mies third and fourth respectively.
Trass Ferrari driver Jono Lester found himself out of the top starting spot for only the second time this season after setting the fifth best time.
Hampering Lester’s effort was a broken diffuser which made the Ferrari a challenge.
Haase said he had slowly extracted more pace out of the Audi as the sessions progressed.
“Step by step, we improved a few seconds. Now the big game is coming, the two races,” Haase said.
“The times were coming better as the conditions got better and better and we had to find the right spot on the track, so we were lucky to get the right spot to get the time for pole.”
The effort thwarted what was looking the top berth for Kiwi ace Van Gisbergen.
“To be that close (to pole) was a shame, but that’s just the way it goes,” he said.
“We’ve got a little work to do on the car, but it’s very fast. To be consistent over an hour race, we’ll have to settle it down and look after the tyres, but it’s a good start.”
The twin Australian GT Championship deciding races are scheduled for tomorrow while a 101 endurance race will be held on Sunday, which includes a solid 37-car field.
Garth Tander and Tony Quinn were stripped of qualifying sixth in the latter’s McLaren after a technical infringement.
Top 10 Results: Australian GT Qualifying, Highlands Park
1. Steve McLaughlan/Christopher Haase, Audi, 1:32.709
2. Klark Quinn/Shane Van Gisbergen, McLaren, 1:32.753
3. Nathan Antunes, Audi, 1:32.984
4. Christopher Mies/Ryan Miller, Audi, 1:33.034
5. Jono Lester/Graeme Smyth, Ferrari, 1:33.146
6. Andrew Miedecke/George Miedecke, Aston Martin, 1:34.042
7. Michael Hovey/Cameron McConville, Ferrari, 1.34.161
8. Morgan Haber, Mercedes-Benz, 1.34.527
9. Tony D’Alberto/Grant Denyer, Ferrari, 1.34.535
10 Max Twigg/Shae Davies, Mercedes, 1:34.856