PERFECT conditions have helped produce scintillating on-track action today as the Bathurst Motor Festival commenced celebrating Mount Panorama’s 75th birthday this weekend.
There was a party on and off the track with more than 300 cars hitting the circuit and plenty of spectators using their Good Friday public holiday to soak up some Autumn sunshine.
On track, defending Bathurst winner James Winslow set the fastest time in practice and lapped just underneath the existing lap record in the process.
Winslow’s 2m04.6160s lap came in the second of two practice sessions, with the Formula 3 cars to qualify and hold their first race tomorrow.
For a full Formula 3 report, click here.
Meanwhile, it was a commanding performance from Sydneysider Ryan Simpson that saw his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X take pole position for the opening round of the NSW Production Touring Car Series today, his 2m27.5536s lap placing him well clear of the production car pack.
Fellow Mitsubishi drivers Dylan Thomas and Leigh Burgess completed the top three in a lockout for the turbo, four-wheel-drive entries.
Brett Howard was the best of the Australian-powered entrants, his HSV GTS qualifying fourth.
The Production Touring Cars – making their Bathurst debut this weekend – will take in two, 30-minute races tomorrow ahead of a longer one-hour affair on Sunday.
In the Production Sports Car series, it was two rivals from an entirely different class of racing who topped the timesheets.
Neale Muston and Ash Samadi are frontrunners in this year’s Radical Australia Cup series – but today changed into GT-mode and topped qualifying for the Sports Car series this weekend.
Samadi was quickest in the Driver A session and Muston in Driver B – Muston last year’s Bathurst winner driving his Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Car.
Samadi is racing a Chev-powered Mosler sports car, whilst former Aussie GT front runner Ross Lilley (Dodge Viper) and speedy Sydneysider Peter Lucas (Lotus Elise) well and truly in the mix as well.
Carrera Cup racer Duvashen Padayachee also looks competitive in his Porsche.
In the Group N Historic Touring Cars, noted racer Dean Neville was comfortably quickest in his Chevrolet Camaro – leading Ford Mustang rival John Harrison by a sizable 2.1s today in qualifying.
Michael Anderson (Ford Falcon) and Touring Car Masters racer Cameron Tilley (Valliant Pacer) completed the Top 4.
Whilst the attention-grabbing Formula 3 cars stole much of the limelight today, the Formula Vee field is just as competitive with Ben Porter edging out Ryan Reynolds for pole position for this weekend’s racing.
The top eight cars were covered by just one second in today’s sole qualifying session with the races this weekend to be full of slipstreaming excitement from the nimble open wheelers.
As well as the five racing categories, the NSW Road Racing Club and Porsche Club of NSW completed their initial sessions for their regularity completion this weekend.
A healthy crowd was in attendance today – with racing to kick off tomorrow morning.