The Bathurst 12-Hour event was rocked by frightening scenes on Friday when driver Keith Kassulke was involved in a high-speed crash that saw the final practice session abandoned. Kassulke's MARC II V8 got airborne after exiting the Mount Panorama track at The Chase and careening into barriers.
Kassulke's car came down Conrod straight at speed and went over the apex after approaching the corner and failing to slow down. All four wheels were propelled off the ground, sending the car into the sand trap before hitting the tyre wall.
Kassulke's car was left on its roof with extensive damage. However the driver managed to walk away without any serious injuries.
Supercars officials said Kassulke was taken to the medical centre for checks and "was conscious throughout, communicating with the recovery teams and suffered no major injuries". They said: "The session was red flagged and was not restarted due to the damage caused to the tyre wall following the impact. At this stage the cause of the accident has not been determined.”
The significant damage done to the safety barrier meant Friday's session was not restarted. The early finish meant Raffaele Marciello ended Friday on top of the time sheets.
The frightening scenes left fans and commentators stunned, with many taking to social media in disbelief.
We just got a replay of that massive Keith Kassulke crash in the fourth #B12hr practice session.
Car actually went off on the inside of the Chase's slower left-hand turn, went airborne off the ripple strip and from all reports ploughed into the wall with little braking.
— Alexander Grant (@AlexGrantOz) February 3, 2023
— Brad (@BradTheLoveFern) February 3, 2023
Keith Kassulke suffered a huge crash, causing Free Practice 4 to end prematurely. The No. 52 Wheels / FX MARC II Mustang V8 was seen going off at high speed in The Chase. The driver from Papua New Guinea has been cleared of major injuries.
📸 Supercars / Dan Hoper | #IGTC #B12hr pic.twitter.com/QgcpHecWLB
— Vincent Bruins 🧡 (@VincentJBruins) February 3, 2023
Thank goodness for that!
— Mr Toddtastic™ 🇦🇺 (@Toddler_72) February 3, 2023
That is insane
— Atu (@2_wen) February 3, 2023
Valentino Rossi on fire at Bathurst 12-hour
Earlier on Friday, two-time Bathurst 1000 champion Chaz Mostert and Moto GP legend Valentino Rossi topped the opening two practice sessions. Defending champion Kenny Habul was then top of the time sheets in the third session.
Drivers have two more practice sessions on Saturday followed by qualifying and top-10 shootouts. The 12-hour race will take place on Sunday.
Italian legend Rossi, a nine-time grand prix world champion (seven in the MotoGP category), headlines the Team WRT BMW entry alongside Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin. Rossi won eight times at Phillip Island between 1998 and 2014 and has received enormous support since returning to Australia.
"I spent a long, long time in Australia in my life, a lot of times in Philip Island for the MotoGP and the fans are very strong for motorsport and is always a great feeling," he said on Thursday.
"The first time for me in Bathurst will be very different but the place looks fantastic - is incredible. I always just drove with the sim but before we did the one lap, and it's an incredible track. All the drivers say that it's also very beautiful so we will wait for tomorrow to try with the car.
"(The fans) They are always crazy for MotoGP and they always follow in Phillip Island. Fortunately I did a lot of great races and win some championships also, so I have a good support."
Seven-time Supercars champion and Triple Eight Racing team principal Jamie Whincup fronts the Boost Mobile Racing entry, while two-time Bathurst 12-hour and seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner Craig Lowndes leads Scott Taylor Motorsport's Mercedes entry. Lowndes was overjoyed by the international support the event is seeing now that it is back at full capacity.
"The line of people on the sides of the street were unbelievable - I haven't seen that for a long time," he said. "This event just keeps growing and growing and of course last year we had COVID, we couldn't get the internationals - they're back ... so the awareness of Europeans from over there about this place is amazing."
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