Holden whitewash on intense practice day in Tasmania
A return to front-running form has seen the Red Bull Holden Racing team lock out the first two spots in practice ahead of this weekend’s third event of the 2019 Supercars Championship in Tasmania.
Seven-time champion Jamie Whincup edged teammate Shane van Gisbergen by a paltry 0.0187s in a tight and somewhat intense finish to a critical 30-minute second practice session, leading a Holden whitewash of the results sheets at Symmons Plains.
Whincup’s 50.5084s flyer stands as a practice record at the 2.41km circuit – a track that his Triple Eight squad has dominated at for much of the last decade.
Held in cool and overcast conditions, the session was something of a Friday shootout given the top 10 drivers from practice two progress directly to the second part of the elimination qualifying format that makes a return to the series this weekend. The Red Bull duo had topped the session’s first 15-minutes however were gradually shuffled down the order as others improved as the session evolved.
However late flyers from both drivers saw Whincup jump to the top on his final lap of the session, his teammate also banking his best lap on his final run.
David Reynolds’ Penrite Racing Holden completed a Holden sweep of the top three positions in a result that will do nothing to quell ongoing paddock chatter regarding parity between the Commodore and Mustang in the series.
Irwin Racing’s Mark Winterbottom was an impressive fourth in his best session of the year to date, pitting with four minutes remaining while leading only to watch the Red Bull duo and Reynolds better his time.
James Courtney ensured five Holdens in the top five to end a strong day for the Mega Fuels Walkinshaw Andretti United squad following a challenging start to their season. Chaz Mostert was the first Mustang in sixth position, championship leader Scott McLaughlin in close company just behind.
Fabian Coulthard was eighth while Todd Hazelwood continued his impressive recent form with ninth.
Will Davison scraped into the top 10 on his final lap to bump Nick Percat’s Commodore from the free pass into qualifying two on Saturday. Such was the intensity of the final session, Scott Pye finished only 12th despite topping the leaderboard with only 10 minutes remaining.
Six Holdens and four Fords made the top-10, the first Nissan finishing with Rick Kelly in a lowly 15th position.
In a short lap, 0.3 seconds covered the top fourteen cars and less than one second the entire field.
The practice two result was the second time that Whincup had topped the leaderboard on Friday, the Red Bull Commodore also pacing practice one earlier in the day.
Whincup topped practice one with a late flyer, his 50.75s lap coming after the flag to edge Chaz Mostert’s Tickford Mustang by 0.01s.
Van Gisbergen was third with McLaughlin fourth and Reynolds fifth, the Penrite Racing Commodore having hovered around the top of the leaderboard for much of the session.
Lee Holdsworth, Will Davison, Scott Pye, Fabian Coulthard and Anton de Pasquale completed an even spread of five Holdens and five Ford Mustangs in the top-10. Rick Kelly’s Nissan was eleventh.
An earlier session for endurance co-drivers was led by Mobil 1 Mega Racing’s Warren Luff, who will co-drive with Scott Pye in this year’s enduro races.
Luff led former teammate Garth Tander, who drove Shane van Gisbergen’s Red Bull HRT Commodore.
Super 2 series star Will Brown – in Anton DePasquale’s Penrite Racing Commodore – was third while the first Mustang was fourth; Tony D’Alberto finishing the session two-tenths of a second behind the fastest time in Fabian Coulthard’s DJR Team Penske entry. D’Alberto was cross entered in championship leader Scott McLaughlin’s No. 17 Shell entry however only drove Coulthard’s sister car in the session.
Four-time Bathurst champion Greg Murphy turned Supercars commentator enjoyed a one-off session behind the wheel of Macauley Jones Team Cooldrive entry, finishing the session less than a second behind Luff’s fastest time in 17th position.
A further 30-minute practice session will precede the first elimination qualifying session, followed by Race 7 of the championship over 50 laps (120km) late on Saturday afternoon.