April 1, 2014 | General


AS FAMOUS European car brands like Porsche and McLaren chase lap records at the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife, Australian teams and drivers are having an ongoing competition to set the benchmark track on their own famous bit of racing tarmac.The Mount Panorama Circuit lap record chase has grown in stature in recent years and may well be broken for the second time in three months, when the Bathurst Motor Festival rolls into town on April 18-20.The lap record has taken a battering since the late Allan Simonsen stunned the establishment with the first lap (in ‘race’ conditions) quicker than 2m08s at the ‘Sprint Bathurst’ Event in late 2011, when he set a 2m04.9560s stunner.Kiwi ace Shane van Gisbergen set the new outright benchmark (2m03.8506s) at the recent Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race, driving a McLaren MP412C GT3 car – eclipsing the old lap record of 2m04.6187 set by Formula 3 racer Chris Gilmour at the Motor Festival in 2012.The return of the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship – generally acknowledged as Australia’s fastest racing cars – should see the fastest lap re-set once again if conditions are favorable across the Easter long weekend.Formula 3 racer Nathan Morcom still holds the fastest ever officially recorded lap at Bathurst when he set a 2m03.2396 to qualify on pole last year, however weather conspired to slow the field during the races. Advances in the series’ since then should see quicker lap times when they return this year.Later model cars, a new tyre specification with more grip and hot competition at the front of the field have Formula 3’s supporters confident that they will reclaim ‘their’ lap record this April.”It’s becoming a bit of a battle to see who can go faster, the open wheelers or the GT cars but I can tell you that everyone in the Formula 3 field is pretty keen to show how fast our cars are and reclaim ‘our’ lap record,” 22-year-old Sydney Formula 3 driver Jon Collins said.”The cars are faster than ever this year and the new tyres and the new cars at the front of the field have really raised the bar. Formula 3 cars are more sensitive to bumps and undulations than the GTs, too, so the new surface should really help us at Bathurst as well.”I think it’s very realistic that we can go quicker again if the conditions are good.”During the second round of the Formula 3 championship at Melbourne’s Sandown raceway at the weekend, Gold Star leader Simon Hodge set a new lap record at the circuit that was a full 0.8 seconds faster than the existing benchmark – set in November last year.The 20-year-old Adelaide driver currently leads the CAMS Gold Star award by just three points from nearest rival Ben Gersekowski, the pair having split the six races so far evenly between them.The F3 Australian Drivers Championship field will join a massive Bathurst Motor Festival that includes a record 332 entries across seven race or regularity classes.On-track action commences Friday, April 18, with practice and qualifying with the first races commencing the following Saturday.Admission to the venue is by bank-note donation with all proceeds going to official Event charity, Legacy.The Bathurst Motor Festival will be held across the April 18-20 long weekend at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Volunteers to assist in the operation of the Event are still being sought; interested parties can visit and click the ‘officials and volunteers’ tab to find more info.OUTRIGHT LAP RECORD PROGRESSION – MOUNT PANORAMA, BATHURST(An outright lap record must be set in a race or sprint event – notable qualifying / additional records included for reference).2m09.7s – Neil Allen (McLaren – Chevrolet F5000) 30/3/19702m09.5705 – Brad Jones (Ford Falcon) 13/10/20022m06.8585 – Greg Murphy (Holden Commodore) 11/10/03 – Top 10 Shootout Lap2m08.6726 – Garth Tander (Holden Commodore) 12/10/032m08.6515 – Mark Skaife (Holden Commodore) 9/10/052m08.4615 – Jamie Whincup (Ford Falcon) 7/10/072m06.8012 – Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore) 8/10/10 – Practice Session Lap2m04.9650 – Allan Simonsen (Ferrari 458 GT3) 13/11/112m04.6187 – Chris Gilmour (Dallara F307 – Mercedes) 8/4/122m03.8506 – Shane van Gisbergen (McLaren MP4 12C GT3) 9/2/14