GET READY for lap times to tumble should qualifying for the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour all go to plan later today.
Two, 30-minute sessions will decide the grid – the bottom 50% of cars from practice three to qualify first before the fastest half of the field take to the track for their own session.
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The separation of the slowest and fastest cars on the grid will be one of several factors helping to push times downwards today.
Another 40-minute practice hit out this morning will also help teams fine-tune cars before they attempt to set the grid.
But it’s set to be a chance to get clear track that will play the largest role, with lap times in yesterday’s pair of 60-minute sessions severely affected by the fastest cars negotiating the slower ones.
Friday’s fast time of 2m27.885 was quick – but a dive into the timing data from yesterday indicates there’s much, much more to come should competitors be able to string a lap together.
While Iain Sherrin’s fastest time of the day was impressive, his theoretical fastest time of the day was an astonishing 1.8 seconds faster.
That means had the Sherrins new M4 strung together its three fastest individual sector times of the day, its best lap would have been a stunning 2m26.09s – well beneath record territory for Production Cars at Mount Panorama.
The fastest time in qualifying last year was 2m26.879s, though Chaz Mostert and Nathan Morcom would ultimately lose their top spot on the grid thanks to a Turbo boost infringement – relegating them to 11th on the grid.
Still, the second fastest time in qualifying was the 2m27.1s lap that saw Beric Lynton and Tim Leahey second fastest and ultimately start from pole.
Close competition in qualifying is also assured with the top eight covered by just 1.4 seconds yesterday – 4 different brands and seven different models of car represented in that group.
The Sherrin’s pace on Friday was backed up by their new M4 clearly being the quickest car down Conrod Straight.
Clocked twice yesterday at just over 274km/hr, the car was quicker than the next fastest car (the ever-slippery BMW 335i) to the tune of a remarkable 17km/hr.
Though top-end speed is only one part of stringing together a lap of the Mountain, it does give the team a decisive advantage in overtaking - both going up the hill and down it later in the lap.
A check of the top speed charts showed a majority of the field hasn’t found the same kind of improvement, with a majority of the A1 Extreme Performance – Forced Induction cars clocked between 245km/hr and 255km/hr, much the same as last year.
After struggling with straight-line performance in 2017, Wall Racing’s Evo 8 has been one car to show significant improvement – looking upwards of 5km/hr quicker down the 1.8km Conrod Straight than last year.
The all-new Ford Focus RS was clocked at just under 248km/hr while the AMG A45s and Mitsubishi Lancer EVOs seemed evenly matched, topping the speed traps at 253km/hr.
Interestingly, the much-improved Subaru WRX STi entered by James Abela and Cameron Hill was in the top five fastest cars across the top of the mountain but barely cracked 235km/hr down the chute.
There’s close competition in the classes, too, with the battle for Class C split by just 0.1 seconds in practice yesterday.
The Colin Osborne / Hadrian Morall Renault Megane RS265 edged out Rob Rubis and Super2 ace Todd Hazelwood’s BMW 130i for bragging rights on Friday, setting up a close fight for pole today.
Interestingly, the top Invitational class Saloon Car was a strong 34th outright, the Cowham / Kearns AU’s 2m38.723s putting them in front of not only every other Invitational and Class D entry, but all bar two of the C-class cars too.
The qualifying split may also help determine the grid in Class C, with at least two of the fastest cars in that battle set to make the top 50% of the field qualifying group.
That means that, rather than being the fastest cars in their group and dictating the pace around traffic, they would instead spend their session watching the rear-view mirrors for the much quicker A and B class cars battling for outright pole.
Another interesting day on the Mountain is in store..