Australia. Looking to follow on from the early success of the 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour, Australia’s Maranello Motorsport is well prepared for the long challenge that lay ahead.
Qualifying at the daunting Mount Panorama circuit had commenced with the Il Bello Rosso Ferrari 458 entering the circuit mid field, and with Simonsen at the wheel, the team watched on as the Dane charged the camouflaged exotic across the mountain terrain.
As the track went green once more, there was soon a mini battle for open circuit as the Maranello Ferrari looked to make a gap in the traffic. Putting in an impressive first, and splintering second sector, Simonsen was clearly on the pace, crossing the line with a 2:05.4908, a stunning time.
According to FIA GT regulations, the 2:06 benchmark is the minimum allowable time, Maranello Motorsport accepting the mandatory exclusion of time and 50kg penalty for the remainder of the weekend.
Following a tyre pressure check and refuel, Simonsen was out, and Ferrari specialist, Salo was in as the session timer clicked down to 38 minutes.
Having completed less than ten laps in practice, it was now on the Fin to prove his times at a place he admitted was intimidating at the best of times.
The Il Bello Rosso Ferrari 458 GT3 had now completed 18 laps, and was once again line of stern with its fellow Ferrari entries as the opening qualifier came to a close, the #88’s second fastest time to be considered, a 2:06.4839, sitting second in the standings.
Qualifying two would be held in the heat of the afternoon, the track peaking at 28 degrees in the opener, now sitting at 54 degrees, completely different conditions meaning the times would likely not match those already on the board.
Edwards and Bowe would take to the wheel in the second qualifier, banking times and further experience, all in preparation for the session that mattered, the 12 hours on the mountain.
As the session came to a close, Bowe had almost completed his run, contact with the lone Mosler entry coming through Forrest Elbow for the final time would leave the Ferrari to limp back to the pit lane with a bent front steering arm, but the Il Bello Rosso entry at the hands of endurance specialist Simonsen had done enough to secure second place, all importantly, a front row starting position.
With the dawn unfolding, Salo is set to start the race and explained, “I would’ve liked a few more laps around here before the race, but I’ve got my head around it and a great team to support and help speed up my learning so I’ll go with it and be ok. Its early morning, so there’s a few other things to consider for me with the early start, but I’m not worried.
“In a GT race, you can never relax until you’re leading by a lap, so we’re looking for a good start, and it will be flat out from the start, every second out there matters.
“I’ve got some nerves, there’s always a little bit of that feeling, probably more now than usual with it still being a new track to me, somewhere I’ve never raced here before so it’s different but we’re ready.”