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Bathurst 24 Hours – First Qualifying Session Report
Australian Style

Heavy overnight rain (roads were awash on nearby Mount Rankin) stopped at about 05.00, so with the high temperatures, there was no risk of a wet track when the first (of three) qualifying sessions began at 10.00.

And the fireworks started almost straight away. Peter Brock was charging through the slower traffic, taking every opportunity, and more to nip past anything in his way.

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As Philipp Peter explained, "you have to go for it on every lap. I don't want to end up two seconds slower than my team-mates," (indicating David Brabham and Andrea Montermini having a discussion about which gear to use where). He wasn't - he was just a tenth and a bit off Montermini's best.

The 427 Monaro ended up fastest (2:13.286), over two and a half seconds faster than the 05 Brock etc. car, suggesting one scenario in which the ‘provisional pole’ car is the hare, leaving Brock and friends as possible winners – if something happens to the yellow Monaro. Three of the 427 drivers set the three quickest times, Garth Tander fastest overall.

The five litre BMW V8 was third fastest (John Bowe), ahead of an impressive looking 54 Porsche, the Falken Tyres example – which Peter Fitzgerald was briefly driving in close company with Brock. Very close. The Paul Stokell Lamborghini was fifth, last runner under 2:20 – with the Engelhorn / Peter / Brabham / Montermini Ferrari sixth (Andrea M. fastest in this one).

“We’ve got a car that’s a little bit loose,” said Philipp Peter. “It’s oversteering on the fast corners. But we’re working on it. We must do as many laps as we can to learn the circuit.” He compared Bathurst to parts of Laguna Seca, Macau and even Monte Carlo (the closeness of the walls).

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“Compared to the Le Mans car, we’re losing at least a second and a half per lap without the sequential gearbox, which sits lower in that car anyway, improving the handling too. The Monaro is really fast on the straight, but we can turn in quicker, after braking later.”

Tommy Erdos threw his hands up in delight after doing “just a systems check” in the GNM Porsche, which ended up ninth fastest with a 2:23.345. Mike Newton then went out and was thrilled to be three seconds a lap faster than the Brazilian. That doesn’t happen too often! “This could well be my favourite circuit in the world – like Oulton Park on steroids.”

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Adam Sharpe in the Morgan was just as happy after his first laps of the track: “The best circuit I’ve ever driven on.” He passed on the information that the V8 was terrific going uphill, while coming back down again, it wasn’t quite reaching the rev. limiter before the entrance to Caltex Chase.

The Morgan wound up 14th quickest, third in Class, beaten only by the VIP Petfoods Cup Porsche and the Alzens' similar car. Richard Thorne’s Aero 8 is used to chasing this model.

“Bang where we want to be,” said TM David Dowse. Commenting on the team’s Dunlops, he said that “we won’t mind if it rains.” If it stays dry for the race, the Aero 8 has some soft British Dunlops for the night, harder Australian ones for the daylight hours.

dailysportscar.comSo what happened to the Mosler – and Martin Short? Shorty’s tale of woe with a very sore eye could fill a book, so we’ll tell that one elsewhere. Suffice to say after two and a half days of misery (and worry) he was starting to feel better today, just in time to get into the MT900R at 10.00.

Then the problems started. “We’ve improved the car so much since last year that it’s now far too stiff for a circuit like this. We wondered about the stiff sidewalls on the Yokohamas, but that wasn’t the issue at all. We’ve got to get stuck in now and re-valve the shocks.”

It was a bad session for the blue and silver Cirtek Porsche, Tim Harvey standling idly by as a clutch niggle was rectified. "They found the problem when they started the car this morning: it was fine yesterday. Never mind, if it saves an hour on the car..."

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One very noticeable feature of this morning’s session was the number of young schoolchildren in the paddock. They were having a brilliant time, one of their teachers explaining that “there are at least ten schools here. The circuit invited us to bring the children, and we’re here until about two o’clock.”

Catch ‘em young – just as James Weaver has been saying for decades!

This is racing Australian style – and it’s fantastic. But two hours after the first session, it's pouring with rain up on the Mountain.

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