The historic opening of The Bend Motorsport Park is just around the corner with the Shannons Nationals to host the first official event.
With the Australian Endurance Championship race headlining the Nationals, many GT drivers were keen to sample the track a test ahead of the weekend.
Fraser Ross of Total Oil / Opti-Coat / Logitech was at The Bend on Thursday to participate in the test, where he was joined by many of his fellow drivers.
Currently sitting fifth position in the GT Championship, Ross enjoyed the day’s atmosphere hoping that his McLaren 650S GT3 will suit the unfinished track come race time.
“Being part of the opening at the new circuit with everybody is really cool, and to be here with the McLaren is even better,” Ross said.
“Obviously the track isn’t finished but it’s a great vibe here and I think it will be a good track.
“The extended part that the GT cars are on this week is a bit challenging but the feel of the track is actually quite good. It definitely feels a little bit European.
“I think that sector three is actually quite good. I really like it, especially coming onto the main straight. It’s a really fast right-hander.
“The main straight and the corner before sector three is like a 90-degree corner, where we were pretty much in first gear with the McLaren.
“I actually quite like it. It’s going to be quite good.”
Like Ross, Porsche 911 GT3-R pilot Liam Talbot believes the course has a European feel to it, something that the 2017 Australian GT runner up is looking forward to.
“You have these big, long, flowing corners where there’s no references around and you sort of just got to go by feel. It feels European, “ Talbot explained.
“It offers everything and that’s the beauty about it, it’s not a fully traditional European circuit and it is not a traditional Australian.
“It’s got a combination of everything at the moment and, as a driver, it’s very exciting and very challenging at the same time.
As the drivers were spending more time on the track, Talbot could feel a change in the surface, but still believed the playing field was even due to the lack of overall experience.
“The track is gripping up a lot more now so it’s starting to feel like a normal track and it’s going to be crazy evolution over the weekend,” Talbot added.
“This will be the second time I get the opportunity to drive on a completely new track, but these things are very rare so it is exciting because it’s a level playing field.
“No one has the advantage and obviously it’s just going to be a weekend where no one has any information. You learn so much in such a short amount of time.”
Steve Richards and his BMW M6 GT3 were one of the last drivers to have a run at the test day, and any concerns he had before visiting quickly vanished once he had his run.
“I was a little bit concerned that there were going to be too many corners but the combination of corners and straights that they have put in are great,” Richards said.
“At the moment, everyone is out there is trying to learn the new circuit. But it is unbelievable, it’s absolutely world class and it has been great fun getting on there.”
The field will be utilising the full 7.7km circuit available at The Bend, the second largest in the world across, and two days of action.
However for Richards, there was that much to think about on track, that he could hardly notice the track’s length.
“It’s so busy that you don’t even get time to think about how long the lap’s been,” Richards added.
“Although you know you’ve been out there for a while, you really don’t get a feel for how big the circuit is because you’re so busy the whole time you’re in it.
“With that said, I’m enjoying the track, it’s been fantastic. I really like it a lot.”
The Bend Motorsport Park will open for the Shannons Nationals on 13 – 15 April, with the first race of CAMS Australian Endurance Championship to take place on Saturday.
For tickets to The Bend, click here. A live-stream of Sunday’s action will be available at thenationals.com.au.