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Feb 08, 2014 - 08:25 AM
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Mercedes Edges Ferrari And McLaren In 12-Hour Qualifying Thriller
Posted by: newsla on Feb 08, 2014 - 08:24 AM
Sports Cars
Mercedes Edges Ferrari And McLaren In 12-Hour Qualifying Thriller


Maro Engel has helped Erebus Motorsport secure the Allan Simonsen Pole Position trophy in qualifying for the 2014 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour – denying sentimental favourites Maranello Motorsport in the process.

 

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It means back-to-back Bathurst poles for the Melbourne-based Mercedes squad but also dramatically usurped Allan’s old team the trophy named after him in the process.

Mika Salo had the bright red Ferrari on the top spot for much of the day, having set a stunning 2m03.8586s lap in the closing stages of the morning qualifying session.

The lap would stand for more than five hours until a last-ditch flyer from a pumped up Engel saw the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG beat the Ferrari for pole by just 0.0835s in a dramatic conclusion to a dramatic day.

Engel set his time in the closing minutes of the dedicated 15-minute session for the outright cars only – and it turned out to be a thriller.

Flying New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen was the biggest improver during the shootout, his 2m04.0006s stunner good enough to secure the VIP Petfoods team a surprised third position, behind the Erebus and Maranello squads.

But then Engel’s flyer elevated the No. 1 Mercedes to the top spot, securing defending winner Bernd Schneider and newcomer Nico Bastian a Bathurst pole position in the process.

Just 0.1420s covered the top three in qualifying – 0.4s the top four – after a dramatic and bruising day on the Mountain. It ensures a diverse Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren top three for tomorrow’ Liqui-Moly 12-hour race.

A last ditch effort from Will Davison hauled the second Erebus Mercedes – the 2013 pole sitting No. 63 car he shares with Greg Crick and Jack LeBrocq – to fourth position overall.

Godzilla’s factory return to the Mountain was done with almost the same devastating effectiveness as their last official visit 22 years ago, a 2m04.2563s flyer from Rick Kelly and strong performances from the other three drivers putting the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 into the top five.

David Russell lifted the JBS Lamborghini to sixth, despite his team missing the first session this morning entirely.

Having controversially elected to run their older-specification car in Class B on Thursday, the team was forced to change the car back to 2013 specification and run in the outright class today – taking two hours to change key aerodynamic and mechanical factors on the car to ensure its eligibility.

The hard work paid off with Russell’s flyer and the team looks in strong form.

With the Marc Cini / Michael Loccisano and Christopher Mies Audi R8 qualifying seventh, seven different brands will be represented in the top ten on the grid for the 6:15am start on Sunday morning.

The Phoenix Racing R8 LMS Ultra of Rene’ Rast, Laurens Vanthoor and Rahel Frey scored ninth and the McMillan / Richards / Wood / Lilley Lamborghini 10th.

Twice podium finishers, Clearwater Racing, elected to focus only on their non-seeded (pro) drivers today with Hiroshi Hamaguchi qualifying the car 12th

The Audi R8 LMS entered by Rotek Racing and driven by Rob Huff, Oliver Gavin, Richard Miens and Kevin Glasson qualified first in Class B (14th overall), just 0.5 seconds ahead of their nearest class rivals – the similar Equity-One racing Audi.

The Superbarn Porsche GT3 Cup S driven by Brothers James and Theo Koundouris, Max Twigg and Steve Owen finished third in class.

The Class C (GT4) pole position was secured by the Ginetta G50 driven by Daniel Gaunt, Karl Reindler and Mark Griffith, the Compare Insurance Lotus second.

Despite a massive crash severely damaging their car, the Daytona Coupe’ trio of Jamie Augustine, Ben Schoots and Paul Freestone were still able to score the Class D Pole position – but face a long night to get their car on track for tomorrow.

The team plans to drive parts up from Melbourne overnight in an effort to make the 6:15am start.

The No. 70 MARC Ford Focus driven by Grant Denyer, Adam Gowans, Gary Jacobsen and Andrew Miedecke qualified 21st outright today, just in front of their sister No. 50 entry.

Of the three FIAT Abarth 500s entered, the No. 59 entry headed by Paul Stokell topped the charts in Class F.

The day was not without drama, two leading contenders ruled out from taking part tomorrow.

The first was a hefty crash at the top of the Mountain from Jason Bright, who hit the wall hard in the Skwirk.com.au Audi R8 LMS Ultra in the opening qualifying session.

The Team BOC V8 Supercar star was taken to hospital in Orange immediately following the accident and will spend the night - however has been given the all-clear by medical staff.

The car was too badly damaged to continue and has been withdrawn from the remainder of the event.

The 77 AF Corse’ Ferrari was also withdrawn from the meeting after a similarly hefty crash in the second session later in the day.

The Ferrari, driven by Steve Wyatt, crashed heavily at the entry to the cutting and was too badly damaged to continue for the remainder of the event.

The 2014 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour starts at 6:15am (AEDST) Sunday, February 9, with the live streaming broadcast to commence at 6:00am local time.

The closing three hours of the race will be shown live on SBS from 3:30pm local time tomorrow.

For more information visit www.bathurst12hour.com.au

ENDS

SATURDAY QUOTEBOARD

MARO ENGEL (Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3)

“We were hoping that we would get clear laps, so we did an out lap with a new set of tyres on. The first lap we caught an Audi into the Chase, it was a pretty good lap until then, and it was a 2:04.00. I thought ‘Oh dammit, I am missing a tenth.’ Went around again and saw I was two-tenths up. I was starting to catch the Ferrari, and in the Dipper I got stuck behind. Started my third lap and could feel my tyres going off a tiny bit. I knew I still had that in hand, in the Chase, where everyone else lost time. I was just hoping it was going to be good enough and luckily we did a lap just quick enough.

“It is a testament to the organisers that there are so many cars so close together. Everyone sitting up here really knows how to steer these cars. Certainly for myself it is a real thrill to be driving these cars flat out around the top of the mountain, it is an amazing feeling.

“It is special, I think it is a good time to think back to last year, we lost a few really good guys, one of them Allan, who was obviously a great guy and very, very, fast in the car. But at the same time I would like to mention Sean Edwards as well, who was a very close friend of mine. The three of us lived in Monaco, I would like to dedicate this to them. Unfortunately it is the way life goes. We shall remember these guys, they are special.”

NICO BASTIAN (Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3)

“ It was crazy for me, I know the Nurburgring/Nordschleife very well, but obviously here is something special to drive, so tight between the walls and to be so quick near the walls was really a challenge for me in practice yesterday. Now I am very pleased with my speed.”

BERND SCHNEIDER (Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3)

“It is good to have pole position but it doesn’t mean anything. Tomorrow at 6:15am the race starts, and the game starts too. We don’t know what is going to happen, but we are well prepared.

MIKA SALO (Ferrari 458 GT3)

"After yesterday, I didn’t think we could be up there in qualifying anyway, so I was quite surprised. I had a clear lap in the morning, which was lucky. It wasn’t a very clean lap, I made a couple of mistakes, there was a little bit more in it. Maro did an excellent lap in this heat. It is a long race, it starts at quarter past six and we will see where we are 12 Hours later.

PETER EDWARDS (Ferrari 458 GT3)

“It is great to have Craig with us, but I am sure Allan is looking down on us, giving us notes.”

CRAIG LOWNDES (Ferrari 458 GT3)

"We were running around, doing some things to make the car nice. He (Maro) caught the car quicker than expected and I didn’t want to get in his way in the Dipper.

"We are running strong, we are happy with the car; all four drivers are very comfortable in the car. Twelve hours is a very long time around here, especially in the heat. We have some good knowledge for tomorrow.

SHANE VAN GISBERGEN (McLaren MP4 12 C)

"I am not surprised to be here, I knew the car would be competitive. It was awesome to get some clear laps. The car felt great, the tyres we are loving the heat. I hope it is 45 degrees tomorrow, our English friend doesn’t, but the tyres seem to be working. Hope we can keep pushing at the front."


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