Jamie Whincup first under lights in Perth practice
A last lap flyer from Jamie Whincup saw the seven-time champion narrowly top the opening practice session in Perth, as the Supercars Championship took to a re-paved, illuminated Barbagallo Raceway for the first time.
The critical 30-minute session was key given the recent re-surfacing of the 2.41km circuit that, according to a majority of the field, has transformed the circuit from one of the lowest grip surfaceson the calendar to one of the highest.
It was also the only running under lights prior to Race 11 of the Championship to be held on Friday night – the first time the Supercars will have raced at Night in Perth.
Whincup’s 53.4430s flyer – comfortably a practice track record – came late in a session otherwise dominated by Ford Mustangs, with a majority of the Blue Oval products taking turns at the top of the charts prior to the end of the session.
Whincup, languishing in ninth in the standings after a troubled start to his season, edged Tickford Racing’s Chaz Mostert by 0.246s with Will Davison’s 23Red Mustang in third but just 0.0351s behind the leading Holden.
“We’re much more competitive that Phillip Island,” Whincup said. ”I won’t guarantee anything but it’s much better out of the truck. It’s nice to be in a position where we should be competitive this weekend but as always just have to grind it out over the weekend.
“Everyone is going to make a massive step forward from P1 to P2 tomorrow so we have to make sure we do the same thing.”
The session also marked the first time that the Ford Mustang had run competitively with the revised aero package mandated by the category, following a raft of parity changes to the dominant Ford between rounds.
On a circuit famed for not placing a significant emphasis on aero performance, each of the six Mustang entries featured in the top-ten in practice one.
Behind the leading trio, Fabian Coulthard was fourth while a bemused David Reynolds said he was ‘Not at all’ on top of his Erebus Commodore yet was still able to log the fifth fastest time.
Lee Holdsworth spent time at the top of the charts in his Tickford Mustang and finished sixth, while Reynolds’ Erebus team-mate Anton De Pasquale backed up their pace with seventh.
Championship leader Scott McLaughlin focussed on race runs and was eighth, though showed his customary pace earlier in the session by spending some time on top of the charts.
Scott Pye was ninth but also survived the biggest moment of practice when he took to the gravel trap at turn six after cutting a left-front tyre early in the session. Despite hauling a significant amount of debris back to the garage, the Walkinshaw Andretti United driver showed promising pace while his teammate James Courtney was 13th.
Cameron Waters was tenth for Tickford while Simona De Silvestro was the best of the Kelly Racing Nissan’s in twelfth, just 0.4 seconds from Whincup’s best.
After various issues between team and driver cast doubt over his appearance on the grid this weekend, Tekno Racing’s Jack LeBrocq was a solid 14th in the session – having locked in his participation for the remainder of the season earlier in the day. He also completed the most laps – 26 – of any driver in the session.
Exactly one second covered the 25-car grid, with returning driver Tim Blanchard, entered as a ‘wild card’ in a fourth Brad Jones Racing Holden this weekend, rounding out the field.
BJR, one of the form Holden teams of the first four events, struggled with their four cars 19th or lower.
The condensed Perth SuperNight schedule will see teams return for a further practice and qualifying tomorrow afternoon, local time, ahead of Race 11 of the 2019 season commencing at 6:45pm