Van Gisbergen sets Bathurst 12 Hour pace

Laine Clark

He has never tamed Mount Panorama in a Supercar but Shane van Gisbergen appears on track to achieve the feat in Sunday's Bathurst 12 Hour enduro.

The flying Kiwi has thrown down the gauntlet at the GTE classic, topping the practice timesheets on Friday for his Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG outfit.

Van Gisbergen - who has teamed up with fellow Supercars star Jamie Whincup and German ace Maxi Gotz - sent the benchmark by clocking two minutes, 03.96 seconds.

He held out the late challenge of Supercars rising star Anton De Pasquale - who is also driving a Mercedes-AMG entry - by 0.2 of a second after an impressive late duel.

Audi's Kelvin van der Linde and Christopher Mies were third and fourth respectively with Mercedes' Raffaele Marciello completing the top five after Friday's four practice sessions on the mountain.

Former series champion van Gisbergen has never claimed the famous Bathurst 1000 title in 13 attempts as a Supercars driver, finishing second twice.

However, the Kiwi appeared in the box seat to add to his 2016 12 Hour triumph with Tekno Autosports on Sunday after setting the practice pace.

Yet van Gisbergen was not taking anything for granted after claiming rivals were keeping their powder dry for Saturday's qualifying.

"The car is awesome but again we're probably the only ones not sandbagging," he told reporters.

"Definitely it's a good start but as I said, no one will be flat out, everyone will be playing games.

"That's the way this racing is unfortunately. Everyone will catch up."

Van Gisbergen's Mercedes outfit still loom as the team to beat ahead of the 10th Bathurst 12 Hour race set to international GT3 regulations.

Overall a record 38 cars from 11 different manufacturers with drivers from 21 countries will contest Sunday's race across five classes.

Remarkably 23 drivers will be backing up from last weekend's Daytona 24 hour race including five-time IndyCar world champion Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe, who combined with Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande to claim line honours in the US for Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi.

Besides van Gisbergen, the Bathurst 12 Hour field will also feature Supercars stars Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Chaz Mostert, David Reynolds, Garth Tander and Rick Kelly.

Enduring temperatures that reached 38 degrees on Friday, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini entries filled the top 10 spots at practice with Lowndes' Porsche outfit shared with Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor sitting at 11th.

The field was cut to 38 on Friday after Josh Burdon crashed his KCMG Nissan GTR - shared by Japanese aces Tsugio Matsuda and 2015 winner Katsumasa Chiyo - at Reid Park late in the opening practice session and was written off.

Qualifying will be held on Saturday with the 12 Hour to start from 5.45am AEDT on Sunday.