Engel sets a 2:00s to take Bathurst 12 Hour pole

The #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG

The #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG

Maro Engel has delivered pole position to GruppeM Racing with the first ever 2:00s lap time at the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, in the #999 Mercedes-AMG.

The 15-minute hit-out for the upper 50 percent of the top 10 at Mount Panorama played out as a duel between Engel and fellow Mercedes-AMG driver Broc Feeney in the #888 Supercheap Auto Triple Eight Race Engineering.

Feeney had already waved the white flag, albeit with a commendable 2:01.0983s, when Engel, who had already reset the practice/qualifying lap record earlier in the day, pulled off a shock by blazing to a 2:00.8819s with the chequered flag out.

The #999 and #888 Mercedes-AMGs will thus share the front row when the field takes the green flag before dawn tomorrow morning, with Manthey EMA qualifying third thanks to Matt Campbell’s efforts in the #912 Porsche.

Jules Gounon put the #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG fourth on the grid in a messy performance, with Dries Vanthoor taking fifth for Team WRT in the #32 BMW and Mostert topping the lower 50 percent half of the session which ended up being sixth for the #65 Melbourne Performance Centre Audi.

As was the case in 2022, the ‘Top Ten Shootout’ was in fact run as a pair of 15-minute segments for the lower and then upper 50 percent of provisional qualifiers.

In that lower group, Mattia Drudi set the fastest iknitial flyer when he achieved a 2:06.8757s in the #74 MPC Audi.

He clocked a 2:02.7225s next time around, once his tyres had come up to somewhere near optimal temperature, and while Maxime Martin moved the benchmark when he set a 2:02.5083s in the #46 Team WRT BMW, Drudi hit back with a 2:02.2197s.

However, Mostert was also on the pace and he took over top spot when he set a 2:01.8860s in the #65 Audi just before the chequered flag.

After the chequered flag came out, Mostert ever so slightly raised the bar for the upper 50 percent to beat when he set a 2:01.8694s.

Drudi remained second, from Martin, Aaron Cameron in the #44 Valmont Racing Mercedes-AMG, and Daniel Juncadella in the #77 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG.

When the upper 50 percent rolled out, Feeney started off with a 2:06.7182s before Engel checked in with a 2:04.9916s on his first flyer.

That set the tone for the session, with Feeney improving to a 2:01.6716s on his next lap but Engel doing even better in achieving a 2:01.2531s while Gounon messed up a lap with an off at The Chase in the #75 Mercedes-AMG.

Feeney went fastest with a 2:01.1945s on his third lap but, once again, Engel had a response, specifically a 2:01.0896s despite kicking up the dirt exiting Murray’s Corner.

Feeney found yet more time on his following lap but merely consolidated second place with a 2:01.0983s.

Manthey EMA opted for an install lap before bleeding out the tyres of Car #912 and Campbell was thus one to watch in the final few minutes, moving up to third with a 2:01.1730s just before the chequered flag.

Once the 2019 race winner rolled off, it looked as though matters had been settled, and while the starting grid would not change, Engel had a surprise in store.

He was personal best only in Sector 2, across the top of the mountain, but broke the beam in a time of 2:00.8819s, the first time anyone has driven a GT3 faster than a 2:01s in its homologated BoP trim.

He is thus the recipient of the Allan Simonsen Pole Position Trophy, but now the race awaits, with a start scheduled for tomorrow morning at 05:45 local time/AEDT.

Results: Top Ten Shootout

Pos Num Team/Sponsor Driver(s) Car Cls Fastest lap Split
1 999 GruppeM Racing Maro Engel Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO PRO 2:00.8819  
2 888 Supercheap Auto Racing Broc Feeney Mercedes Benz AMG GT PRO 2:01.0983 0:00.2164
3 912 Manthey EMA Matt Campbell Porsche GT3 R Spec 2 PRO 2:01.1730 0:00.2911
4 75 Sun Energy 1 Jules Gounon Mercedes Benz AMG GT PRO 2:01.2916 0:00.4097
5 32 Team WRT Dries Vanthoor BMW M4GT3 PRO 2:01.7241 0:00.8422
6 65 Sportsbet Team MPC Chaz Mostert Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 PAM 2:01.8694 0:00.9875
7 74 The Bend Motorsport Park / MPC Mattia Drudi Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 PRO 2:02.2197 0:01.3378
8 46 Team WRT Maxime Martin BMW M4GT3 PRO 2:02.5083 0:01.6264
9 44 Valmont Racing Aaron Cameron Mercedes Benz AMG GT SIL 2:02.5482 0:01.6663
10 77 Mercedes-AMG Craft-Bamboo Daniel Juncadella Mercedes-AMG GT3 PRO 2:03.0311 0:02.1492

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