An ideal qualifying for the Porsche customer team Absolute Racing at the opening round of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge: Porsche works driver Matt Campbell (Australia, No. 911) turned the fastest lap of the day (2:03.554 minutes) in qualifying for the Bathurst 12 Hour, thus handing Porsche its first pole position at the Mount Panorama Circuit. In the identical, 500+hp Porsche 911 GT3 R, Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium, No. 1) secured the fifth grid spot for Earl Bamber Motorsport (EBM) on Saturday.
On the 6.213-kilometre racetrack in the state of New South Wales, both Porsche drivers made it into the decisive pole shootout. Last year’s winner Campbell kept his cool in temperatures of 39 degrees Celsius and underlined his intentions of claiming another home victory. The 24-year-old shares the vehicle with his two French works driver teammates Mathieu Jaminet and Patrick Pilet. The two IMSA champions Vanthoor and Porsche works driver Earl Bamber (New Zealand) share driving duties with the Australian motor racing star Craig Lowndes.
Matteo Cairoli narrowly missed out on taking part in the top 10 pole shootout by a mere 0.238 seconds. The driver from Como in Italy planted the Porsche 911 GT3 R, which is based on the high-performance Porsche 911 GT3 RS road-legal sports car, on twelfth. He shares the cockpit of the No. 912 vehicle with Porsche works driver Dirk Werner (Germany) and Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining (Austria).
The Grove Racing squad claimed the second grid spot in the Pro-Am class (16th overall) on the circuit about 200 kilometres west of Sydney. In the No. 4 car, Ben Barker (Great Britain) was only 0.088-seconds shy of the class leader. Stephen Grove (Australia) and his son Brenton Grove round off the driver trio.
The qualifying for the NED Racing Team (No. 12) and Porsche works driver Romain Dumas (France) did not turn out quite as well. During his flying lap, the seasoned specialist encountered a red flag and was forced to stop. In the end, Dumas finished on fifth in the Pro-Am class (25th overall). For the race, Porsche Junior Jaxon Evans (New Zealand) and David Calvert-Jones (Australia) join the Frenchman at the wheel of NED Racing’s 911.
A total of 38 vehicles from eleven manufacturers take up the 12-hour event at Bathurst. The first round of the most important championship for GT3 sports cars gets underway on Sunday at 5:45am local time (7:45pm CET). Fans can follow the event Down Under live on https://www.bathurst12hour.com.au.
Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Motorsport): “I wanted nothing more than pole position for my first visit to Bathurst. And Matt did that very well. He is a fantastic driver, particularly here in Australia. Bathurst is an incredible track with many passages that are blind. The race will be really interesting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): “We’re happy with pole position. To set a perfect lap here you need to fit a sheet of paper between the wing mirror and the wall – and Matt had scratches on his wing mirror. Laurens also performed really well, and Cairoli did a super job too. As a newcomer, qualifying on 12th is a great achievement. We’ll take a look at why the other two vehicles didn’t place further up the field. We’re confident that the performance is there – we’ve already underlined that.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “Pole is of course a fantastic result. Luckily, I clocked a similar time in the first qualifying session. In the pole shootout I had a pretty good idea what I had to do. Still, I got nervous when everyone else went out to turn their lap and I was the last to be allowed on the track. But it worked out well.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #1): “In the first two corners I made two minor mistakes. After that my run went well, but the perfect lap was gone. It’s perfect for Porsche with P1 and P5. In the race, the weather may well play a role. Rain is predicted for the last hours of the race. That can make things really exciting.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 GT3 R #912): “The standard in the series is really high. I managed to get a good lap in, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough for the top ten. It’s my first time here at Bathurst and my goal is to improve from session to session. The qualifying setup was 95 percent right. We’ll work on the rest. The race runs over twelve hours and during that time we aim to get to the front.”
Ben Barker (Porsche 911 GT3 R #4): “Unfortunately, our qualifying was a little disappointing. We were much better in the free practice sessions. Our car wasn’t perfectly balanced so I lost a bit of confidence in some of the difficult passages. We’ll now adjust the setup for the race. Generally, our strategy is to keep out of any trouble and drive a good race.”
Romain Dumas (Porsche 911 GT3 R #12): “There was a crash in qualifying and then the session was red-flagged. That put a stop to my attempt at a fast lap. The team then decided to save the second set of tyres for the race. That was a strategic decision. Our qualifying result is not so great but the race is long. A lot can happen.”
1. Jaminet/Pilet/Campbell (F/F/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R
2. Parente/Barnicoat/Blomqvist (P/GB/GB), McLaren 720S GT3
3. Fraga/Buhk/Marciello (BR/D/CH), Mercedes AMG GT3
4. De Oliveira/Liberati/Imperatori (BR/I/CH), Nissan GTR Nismo GT3
5. Bamber/Vanthoor/Lowndes (NZ/B/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R
12. Werner/Preining/Cairoli (D/A/I), Porsche 911 GT3 R
16. S. Grove/B. Grove/Barker (AUS/AUS/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 R
25. Calvert-Jones/Dumas/Evans (USA/F/NZ), Porsche 911 GT3 R