A stunning Top 10 Shootout lap has seen Dom Storey qualify the Autex Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 on pole position for tomorrow’s Highlands 501, the final round of the 2017 CAMS Australian Endurance Championship.
Storey and co-driver Peter Hackett set the fastest combined time after two 20-minute qualifying sessions, before Storey translated that speed into pole position with an incredible Shootout lap.
His best of 1:30.708s was 0.037s faster than factory McLaren driver Alvaro Parente managed in the YNA Autosport/McElrea Racing entry in a nail-biting finale.
Parente and co-driver Fraser Ross entered the Shootout with just the sixth fastest time, before the Portuguese star set a blistering lap that remained at the top of the standings until Storey’s last gasp effort.
“It’s a blur now,” said Storey after the shootout.
“The car just turned on really well – it was just mint from the time I left the pit lane.
“I just pushed on the lap, and kept an eye on my delta time,” he added.
“I saw that I was two tenths up in the first sector from what I did in quali. I was conservative through the chicane over the bridge because of the kerb strike – I didn’t want to get a kerb strike and lose the lap entirely.
“It was just a clean lap, but I put it on the line as well – you have to in the Top 10.”
For Hackett, the veteran racer remains cautiously optimistic heading into the race.
“Confidence is a dangerous thing,” he reasoned.
“We’re happy, we’re comfortable with the car, and the car’s performing exceptionally well. But race day is race day; it’s 501-kilometres, and I’ve been here so many times.
“The big picture’s the championship. It’s the championship that we really want, and to do that we need to win.”
Hackett will start tomorrow’s race in the car, leaving Storey to take part in the unique Le Mans-style foot race to begin the Highlands 501, which has been a feature of all endurance Australian GT races at the venue since the inaugural Highlands 101 in 2013.
Parente will join him on foot as Ross starts the McLaren while in third will be Max Twigg in the WM Waste Management Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Tony D’Alberto taking on the running start.
D’Alberto set a best of 1:31.345s in the shootout to log a time just 0.045s up on the Mega Racing Porsche driven by John Martin, with Liam Talbot set to start the car tomorrow.
A solid lap from Shane van Gisbergen saw the #77 Darrell Lea McLaren 650S GT3 provisionally fastest before ending the session fifth, while Jaxon Evans lost time in the final sector to qualify the championship-leading Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 LMS in sixth.
After qualifying the championship lead enjoyed by Evans and Jaxon Miles has shrunk to just 70-points, with 220 on offer for victory, meaning fourth or better will be enough to secure them the title.
Rounding out the Top 10 was Steve Richards in the BMW Team SRM with a 1:31.907s, David Russell at 1:32.164 for the JBS Australia squad, Highlands’ local professional driver Andrew Waite ninth in the second of the Darrell Lea McLarens, and Glenn Wood tenth at the wheel of the Interlloy M Motorsport Lamborghini he’s sharing with Justin McMillan.
The Highlands 501 is set to get underway at 12:40 with the Le Mans start, with drivers running to their cars to start the motor race.
MEDIA: Australian GT (Matt Coch)