JOHN MAGRO has set the fastest ever qualifying lap of Mount Panorama to take pole position for the third round of the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship in Bathurst.
Times are expected to drop further across the three races this weekend though already comfortably eclipse the outright race lap record of 2m06.3 set by Allan Simonsen in a Ferrari earlier this year.
After teams and drivers worked their way into the 6.213km circuit in a sole 30-minute practice session earlier this morning, qualifying became a shootout for pole between Magro and his Team BRM team mate, Jordan Skinner.
Magro’s 2m05.5361 was three-tenths faster than Skinner’s lap with championship leader James Winslow a further tenth behind.
Drivers expect pace to gradually increase across the weekend as the track gains rubber and the teams and drivers gain experience – Magro, for example, only logging a total of 22 laps today before the first 13-lap race tomorrow.
But the North Queenslander was still grinning after an experience he called ‘Exhilarating’.
“I was struggling a bit early in the session but as it went on the car really came on – the team came on the radio and said ‘you need to find a second’ – and I thought ‘well, it’s a case of win it or bin it’ so I pushed as hard as I could. I went for it and it’s paid off.
“To do the last lap and come away from pole is great. To do it here is even better.
“It’s pretty wild. You’re holding your breath all the way over from the Cutting and you’re flat all the way to Skyline. We’re just bombing it in there and holding on. It’s pretty awesome.
“I’m going to keep James (Winslow) behind me, for sure,” Magro added, grinning.
“He’s been struggling for speed but always seems to find it when he needs to, by race day. It’s very important that Jordan and I work together and keep him behind us and ideally drive away from them!”
Skinner’s second represents his career-best qualifying performance in Formula 3, however the South Australian driver rued an off on his qualifying hot lap that may have been the difference between pole and second.
Skinner topped most of the session, setting a stunning run of fastest times throughout the early stages of qualifying. On his hottest of hot laps – a 2:05.8936 – he ran wide at the final corner and bounded across the grass, sacrificing lap time but still doing enough to secure second on the grid.
Winslow will start third but continues to struggle with a mysterious gear cut issue on his Dallara, costing him valuable tenths of a second. The Briton was the third driver to sneak under the sub 2m06 barrier, less than .05 behind Skinner.
Reigning champion Chris Gilmour will start fourth ahead of Steel Guiliana in the Forpark R-Tek Machine and Money Choice sponsored driver Nick Foster in the third car from Team BRM.
In the battle for the Forpark Australia F3 National Class the BF Racing duo of Ben Gersekowski and Hayden Cooper were 1-2; but it doesn’t get much closer between team mates.
Gersekowski edged out Cooper by 0.0006s for seventh and eighth positions.
R-Tek driver and Symmons Plains winner Adrian Cottrell was just 0.1s further behind the pair in a ferociously close contest for the Formula 3 ‘race within a race’.
F3 newcomer Nathan Gotch in his AGI Sport / Snake Racing Dallara F304 Renault will go from fourth of the National Class cars as he continues his learning process, whilst Jon Mills’ Mygale was the first car of the weekend to meet the unforgiving concrete walls of Mount Panorama after he hit the left rear. The car is unlikely to contest the remainder of the weekend.
The first of three races will be held tomorrow afternoon at 14:35pm, over 13 laps as part of the Bathurst Motor Festival weekend.