Ginetta Cars made their official debut at Mount Panorama today with the impressive G55 GT4, closing the ledger on the opening day having made a very vocal statement about why they’re at one of the toughest circuits in the world, and just what the competition can expect in Sunday’s once-around-the-clock enduro.
By the close of just under three and a half hours of practice, the #55 Ginetta of factory star Mike Simpson and Australian recruits Peter Paddon and Tim Berryman, claimed the fastest time of the day for the hotly contested Class C for GT4 cars.
Both the #55 and #69 cars spent a significant part of their four sessions gaining valuable track time for their roster of drivers, few of which had any prior Bathurst experience. Despite his rookie status at the track, Simpson had been the standout – in the end – topping every session with the exception of the last, however by the end of the day his P3 benchmark of 2:19.512 was still classified as the fastest time in Class C, just a tenth faster than their closest opponents.
Mike Simpson, Ginetta Factory Driver: “What a circuit Mount Panorama is. It’s daunting, it’s iconic and it’s been a pleasure to drive. It’s the first time we’ve run the G55 GT4 car here and it was on the money from the first session. It’s topped every session pretty much and I’m loving it. We had a little bit of an incident in the final session with Tim who found the wall, so Bathurst bit us for the first time, but at least it bit us today – the first day of practice – so plenty of time to repair it for the 12 hour race.
“Once the car came back the crew went over it and it looks like it’s just bolt on parts, so we’ll do a full inspection of the chassis overnight and then run it in free practice tomorrow morning to check everything is fine then go out and make it a distant memory in qualifying and put the car on pole!”
Whilst Simpson was full of confidence, across in the #69 camp, team ‘leader’ Zen Low was a little less confident, having endured a number of sessions where he felt he was constantly under attack. “The track doesn’t like me, the native animals don’t like me, and my competitors don’t like me!” he laughed as he reflected on the way the day had unfolded.
Whilst Low and Japan’s Shinyo Sano have been working on their pace, their two young Australian team-mates Jake Parsons and Aiden Read have been progressively getting faster with every session. Parsons was quickest early on, by the close of the fourth session, his compatriot Aiden Read was making some big forward steps to be amongst the outright class contenders.
Jake Parsons, Driver; “I came here two years ago in a Formula Ford and won the round and set a new lap record, so that was my first taste of Bathurst which was a bit of an eye opener. Since then I’ve done some GT driving in Asia, so coming here was just a matter of putting the two pieces together and it’s been an awesome experience so far. I’m really impressed with the Ginetta, it’s nice and stable and quite nimble, so it’s very user-friendly, that’s really been the most impressive thing for me.”
Aiden Read, Driver; “It’s been a good day, but there’s been a lot to take in – my first day in a GT car, and my first time at the mountain, so lots to reflect on. It has been a bit of a surprise at times, but it’s all gone well and I’m starting to settle in and the speed is coming with some confidence, so I’m happy, I’m enjoying driving the car, and starting to get on top of the track. I’d say the biggest learning experience for me has been about the dimensions of the car and the way it moves around more than I’m used to with a prototype car, but it’s just about adapting my technique to suit that and I think after that second session this afternoon, I really started to get my head around it.”
For RA Motorsports Team Manager Chris Papadopolous, the experienced engineer was happy with the performance of the team, but quick to remind everyone that it had come together very late, so there was still much to be sorted through.
“The cars are fantastic – we knew that coming in – but logistically it has been a challenge, so many things to consider and be ready for. An endurance race like this is a big challenge in itself, but then you throw in the unknown of a car that many of us hadn’t seen before, and getting the team around it quickly, has been an experience, but we’re all enjoying it, especially topping the timesheets for the day!”
For the two Ginetta teams, Saturday presents a final one hour practice session early in the morning to gain valuable miles ahead of qualifying at 10:40am, a one hour session that sets the grid for Sunday morning’s 5:45am race start.
2017 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12-Hour Combined Practice Sessions (Class C)
1. Simpson/Paddon/Berryman (Ginetta G55 GT4) – 2:19.512
2. Pilgrim/Braams/Viebahn/Moller/Madse (Porsche Cayman GT4) – 2:19.663
3. McMillan/Wood/Enge/Kofler (KTM X-Bow GT4) – 2:19.879
4. Cowham/Kearns/Jarvis (Porsche Cayman GT4) – 2:21.204
5. Mason/Drinkwater (Porsche Cayman GT4) – 2:22.123
6. Low/Sano/Parsons/Read (Ginetta G55 GT4) – 2:23.003
7. Putman/Espenlaub/Foster/Pilgrim (Porsche Cayman GT4) – 2:23.865
8. Baenziger/Leemhuis/Struve (Aston Martin Vantage GT4) – 2:27.201