The BMW teams proved to be quickest during the practice sessions of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the opening round of the 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge. Marco Wittmann was fastest on the Mount Panorama Circuit, edging in front of BMW colleague Chaz Mostert.
A flying lap from two-time German DTM Champion Marco Wittmann put the #60 BMW Team SRM M6 GT3 on the top of the timesheets in the final practice session of the day – his 2m03.219s lap standing as the fastest time of the day. Wittmann will share his M6 GT3 with four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Steven Richards and Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom this weekend. Wittmann narrowly edged out MARC GT BMW driver Chaz Mostert, whose practice three benchmark of 2m03.312s was less than 0.1 seconds behind Wittmann’s later benchmark.
Double Bathurst 12 hour winner Christopher Mies put his JAMEC-PEM Racing Audi R8 LMS third overall on combined times with a 2m03.913s, while Toni Vilander’s best of 2m04.192s saw the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 he will share with Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup set the fourth fastest time of the day. The RA Motorsport Ginetta G55 topped Class C, as best of the GT4 cars.
A relatively clean day of action saw only two red flags throughout the four sessions – and more than three hours of running – however one claimed a pre-race favourite early in the weekend. Driven at the time by former Bathurst 12-hour winner Florian Strauss, the #44 Nissan GT-R suffered heavy damaged following a crash at the infamous ‘Metal Grate’ at the top of Mount Panorama. The car missed the final session of the day as they worked to repair the significant front end damage caused to the car Strauss will share with Todd Kelly and Jann Mardenborough.
The only other outright contender to strike dramas was the Keltic Racing McLaren 650S GT3, engine dramas halting an otherwise promising start to their day and necessitating heavy repairs before they return to action tomorrow.
Saturday’s action will see a further one-hour practice session between 8-9am in the morning, prior to an all-in 60-minute qualifying session that starts at 10:40. A 20-minute session for the GT3 cars only will then set the ten contenders for the Pirelli Top-10 Shootout later in the afternoon. All Saturday’s sessions and the race on Sunday, start at 5.45am local time, will be streamed live on the Intercontinental GT Challenge website.
Marco Wittmann (#60 SRM BMW M6 GT3): “We have to see how the rest of the weekend goes. They were definitely good laps and getting a clean lap is important here. It went pretty well in free practice but it is tomorrow that counts. I really like to be here in Bathurst and it is my first time racing here. The track is challenging and good for drivers.”