Bathurst 12H: Event qualifying report

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AUDI 1-2, BUT PORSCHE READY TO POUNCE FOLLOWING ARMOR ALL QUALIFYING

AUDI AND PORSCHE will go head to head in tomorrow's Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour after locking out the first three rows of the grid during qualifying today at Mount Panorama.

The pair of Audi Race Experience / Team Joest V10-powered R8 LMS models finished today's unique qualifying format in first and second position, with the No. 7 car driven by Craig Lowndes, Mark Eddy and Warren Luff taking the top spot and the $5000 from Armor All.

The new qualifying format, a first in Australia, combined the fastest times from each of the three drivers entered in each car - creating an aggregate time to determine their qualifying position.

Lowndes, Luff and Eddy combined to set a qualifying benchmark of 6:35.3 seconds, With V8 Supercar and part-time stunt driver Luff setting the car's fastest time of the weekend with a scorching 2:09.63 lap early in this morning's session.

The fastest lap of the day was set by two-time Pole sitter Steve Owen, however the new format dropped the Porsche he will share with James and Theo Koundouris to third on the 'aggregate' starting order.

Audi's Christopher Mies, Marc Basseng and Darryl O'Young will start second; their aggregate time of 6:35.6 seconds was, remarkably, just three-tenths behind their Aussie team-mates but ensuring a 1-2 result for the works-supported team.

Lowndes said that there was more to come from the green, gold and white Audi.

"We know we have got a lot more in the car," the five-time Bathurst 1000 champion said.

"The car is nice to drive; it's very forgiving which is something we obviously need in tomorrow's race.

"It is quite difficult to get a good clean lap around the mountain," he added.

"It's a 6.2km circuit but our closing speed is so much different to everyone else's - especially up the top of the mountain where it is quite difficult to pass."

"We were very happy with the car and pretty confident no one would be able to go much faster that us today," Luff added.

Canadian-based Chinese driver Darryl O'Young, a veteran of Sportscar, World Touring Car Championship and DTM racing, said qualifying was an entire team effort.

"It's really great to be here and have Audi on the one/two," he said.

"They (the Aussie guys) did a good job teaching us the track. We got good improvements during practice; the whole team has really pulled together."

The Porsche of Canberra-based James and Theo Koundouris - along with Steve Owen - will start third after having scored the top spot on the grid in both 2009 and 2010.

"Steve did a really good job," James Koundouris said.

"It's a shame that we couldn't get pole like we have for the past two years but that's the way the rules are. Steve did the quickest lap of the day and did a really good job. We think we have a really good chance tomorrow. We have to stop less than the Audi's and should be very consistent so we feel pretty confident."

The VIP Petfoods Racing combination of Tony Quinn, Clarke Quinn and Craig Baird will go from fourth in their GT3R, with another GT3 to start fifth in the form of the Hallmarc sponsored, Marc Cini / David Reynolds / Dean Fiore entry.

Two further Porsche's, two Ferrari's and the V8-powered Mosler MT900 will complete the top ten.

In the battle for class honours, the Matt Kingsley, Roger Lago and Darcy Russell 997 GT3 Cup Car not only scored the Class B (GT Challenge) pole position but scored a stunning seventh outright in the process.

The duo of Porsche champions teamed with V8-ace Russell look set to be a fly in the ointment of the leading, outright classed vehicles tomorrow.

'Godzilla', the Nissan GTR, returned to the mountain in style today as the Donut King Racing team of Tony Alford, Mal Rose and Peter Leemhuis combined to take the GT Production (Class C) class and score 12th on the starting grid, ahead of the Freestone / Pullin / Seiders Corvette.

The Production Car battle was just as intense as the fight at the front of the field, with just ten seconds - on combined aggregate time - separating four leading cars representing three different brands.

Taking the class pole was the Peter Conroy Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo X of Mark Brame / Peter Conroy and Anthony Robson, just edging out the similar Lancer driven rapidly by Neil McFadyen, Damien Flack and Leigh Burgess.

"It's great we were able to pull the fastest production lap together," Anthony Robson said.

"The new thing this year is having to deal with the faster cars which puts us in the middle but it should be a good race.

"The combined times of all of us are close together," Brame added. "I am really proud we were able to achieve something. It's really special to do a press conference!"

The two-time outright winning BMW 335i Turbo will start third.

In the Production (Performance) class, the HSV Astra VXR steered by young guns Gerard McLeod, Ash Walsh and Formula Ford champion Chaz Mostert comfortably took class pole position, ahead of the GWS Personnel BMW 130i.

Tomorrow' Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour will begin with a rolling start at 6:15 AM Australian Eastern Daylight saving time. The race will be streamed live on the internet via www.bathurst12hour.com.au with interaction via the Event's social networking outlets at Facebook and Twitter.

-source: bathurst 12h

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