FRIDAY evening's night practice session at the Bathurst 12 Hour was a wonderful spectacle for racegoers, and under the blur of headlights it was the pace of Kelvin van der Linde that shone brighter than anything else.
Van der Linde produced a lap of 2:03.9569 near the halfway point of the session that no-one else would be able to match, while co-driver Nathanaël Berthon always showed strong pace during his stint later in the session.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Evo II entry was on fire throughout Friday, with Bathurst co-driver Brad Schumacher topping the time sheets in his practice session earlier in the day.
An exciting aspect for the team is knowing that there's still more that they can do to bring out the best in their car, according to Berthon.
Berthon, who is making his first Mount Panorama start, said it was an ideal beginning to the Bathurst campaign for his team.
"The car is really good and the track is really nice to drive. It's my first time here and it's certainly not easy," he said.
"The car is stable and that gives you a lot of confidence. I believe we are strong here and we have the package to be strong.
"It's difficult to say [where the car can improve] so I just have to focus on myself a bit to build up speed. Tomorrow morning's session will give me a bit more drive time and it will be an important session for me to be able to do many laps.
"We're very happy about today. We're right up there."
Berthon said it wasn't just the night driving that prove an interesting challenge during Friday's late session.
"It's definitely not easy out there, and I also don't have a seat insert. I'm quite low in the car so it's not easy to see at times and it's very up and down here.
"I really have to take my mark and obviously you don't want to smash the car on the first day so I'm just taking it easy. The race is Sunday and that's the day to deliver. Today it's just a learning process."
The cars came back into pit lane 11 minutes into the session when marshalls brought out the red flag to allow them to clear debris around Conrod Straight.
At that stage Jules Gounon had laid down the fastest time of the session with a 2:05.1109, while van der Linde was the only other driver under the 2:06 mark with his 2:05.5403.
Eight minutes later the field returned to the track with the sun completely set and with headlights blaring.
Gounon didn't waste any time breaking under the next full-second barrier with a lap of 2:04.4064.
The Audi and Mercedes entries continued to swap spots on top of the time sheets as van der Linde produced a 2:03.9569 with 17 minutes left in the session.
Many teams did a round of driver changes to get their professional class drivers all up to scratch with racing in the dark, though none would be able to better the effort produced by van der Linde.
Chaz Mostert jumped up into second with a 2:04.2950.
The only car to not take part in the night session was the #47 Audi entry, which suffered significant damage in a crash earlier in the day at Reid Park with Theo Koundouris behind the wheel.
The Canberra native crashed at high speed in the third practice session for this Sunday's race but he was able to walk away unharmed.
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