|Peter Major lit up the night by setting the fastest ever lap time for a GT3 car around the Barbagallo circuit.|
After a year hiatus from the Western Australian circuit, the Australian GT field shattered the existing markers in a dramatic day of on-track action.
The Totally 4×4 Wheels Lamborghini R-EX of Major proved the fastest of all, his blistering time of 53.3746s set in Practice 2 more than two seconds faster than the race lap record.
Major headed Peter Hackett, the Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver having been fastest in the opening practice session of the day on a 53.8005s lap.
Two-time champion Geoff Emery wheeled his Valvoline Audi R8 LMS EVO to third in both sessions with metronomic precision, and title leader Max Twigg banking a strong fourth place in the glorious WM Waste Management entry in Practice 1.
Teenage sensation Ryan How saw the Trophy Class Industrie Audi R8 LMS fourth fastest in Practice 2, one spot up from where he’d ended the opening session.
On debut at the Barbagallo circuit, How was also fastest ahead of Richard Gartner in the Safe-T-Stop Lamborghini R-EX in the day’s opening session.
Gartner was again second fastest in Trophy Class in the later session, narrowly ahead of Joseph Ensabella in the Aaron Laboratories Porsche.
Heading the GT4 charge was the M Motorsport KTM X-Bow pairing of Justin McMillan and Glen Wood.
The only two-driver entry in the field, McMillan delighted in pushing the limits in Practice 1 before handing the car to Wood for Practice 2.
A series of setup changes made throughout the session banked an immediate return, allowing Wood to record an impressive 58.8938s lap.
Honours were shared in Trofeo Challenge, with Nick Karanos in the Earth Electrical Contractors Porsche on top in Practice 2 after Jim Manolios and Dean Canto shared the Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini Super Trofeo EVO in Practice 1.
Canto made a cameo at the start of the opening session, the Australian GT driver coach using his brief foray as an opportunity to gain first hand knowledge of the recently resurfaced track.
Practice 1 had been held under bright blue skies, before the twilight gave way to darkness during the second session.
Twigg set the pace early before Emery, Major, and Hackett all had spells at the top of the time screens.
A late lap from Major looked set to see the local favourite shoot to the top of the standings as the chequered flag fell, but he instead opted to take to the lane.
The chequered flag then fell with Hackett fastest from Major and Emergy at the end of the opening 30-minute session.
As the track lighting took over heading into Practice 2, the exotic field of GT machinery took centre stage with exhausts, turbos, and brake disks dramatically glowing red hot.
Hackett was again rapid out of the gates as he shot to the top of the standings before Major lowered the benchmark shortly after the mid-point of the 30-minute hit out.
The Lamborghini pilot then improved on his own effort to set the fastest lap of the day, and the fastest ever seen by a GT3 car around the 2.4km Barbagallo circuit.
With similar conditions expected throughout Friday’s running, it promises to deliver another thrilling and record breaking day of action.
Like Practice 1, Qualifying is set to be held in the mid-afternoon sunshine with the back-to-back sessions beginning at 1405 local time.
The green flag will then fall on the first of the weekend’s three races well after the sun goes down at 2000 on Friday evening.
All the action will be shown live on Fox Sports, channel 506, and streamed online via Kayo Sports.
“That’s probably faster than I thought we were going to go to be perfectly honest.
“The tyres have done probably 100km now, so they’re not that new, but we just kept tuning the car and making it better.
“Fingers cross track conditions stay similar because the car felt really good.
“The track surface is so unknown, it’s brand new, we don’t know what it’s going to do in terms of change and evolution.
“We’ve really tuned the car a long way from where we started, we’re a lot stiffer everywhere.
“That’s made it a little bit sketchy to drive and hopefully it looks after its tyres over a race distance, but for outright race pace it’s definitely much quicker.”
“In Practice 2 we made a few adjustments in the car just to fix the balance, but it felt really good.
“We ran a little bit better tyre in Practice 2, and new brakes, and the car just really responded to the nighttime conditions.
“I think we’ll benefit more than some others on a new set of tyres in qualifying because of the way the BTE Bulk Transport Equipment Audi responds to new tyres.
“But I’m really happy with the way Practice 2 went; practice makes perfect.”