Scott McLaughlin has continued his form in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship; grabbing second the category’s opening practice session at Hidden Valley in Darwin. The Kiwi led the session for most of the 30-minute period, only to get trumped at the very end of the session by Walkinshaw Andretti United driver Chaz Mostert.
Fabian Coulthard was the first to set a representative time, clocking a 1:07.140 five minutes in. He was soon eclipsed by teammate McLaughlin via a 1:07.071. The pairing led David Reynolds, Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, Mostert, Cameron Waters, James Courtney, Jake Kostecki, and Lee Holdsworth at the 10-minute mark.
McLaughlin’s time stood for a lengthy period; first across the session’s halfway point, and then as the session approached its last 10 minutes. Behind them Castrol Ford Mustang driver Rick Kelly leaped to third with 10 minutes to go, to be less than a tenth off McLaughlin’s best.
For the final minutes of the session most of the grid returned to the track for a qualifying cycle. Few drivers showed chance of improvement. Andre Heimgartner was one of the few drivers to show green sectors, only to give away his lap and peel off into pit-lane.
In the final two minutes the two DJR Team Penske Ford Mustangs were finally divided, as Anton de Pasquale and Kelly split them. Others to jump up late included Macauley Jones, Waters and Alex Davison. Then, almost out of nowhere, Mostert fired back to the top of the sheets with a sharp 1:06.7477 — a time almost three tenths up on McLaughlin.
De Pasquale, Kelly, Coulthard, Reynolds, Todd Hazelwood, and an impressive Jake Kostecki rounded out the top eight. Van Gisbergen ended the session in ninth, reporting that his Commodore was battling rear-end issues. Jones completed the top 10.
Beyond the lead pack, opening practice was largely issue free. Brad Jones Racing’s Jack Smith fired off the track at turn one after out-braking himself. But after a quick flick-spin on the escape road the former BNT NZ Touring Car champion was back on track. Holdsworth, fresh from a Sydney Motorsport Park podium, did the same late in the session — as did Waters in the dying minutes.
One of the most interesting issues of the practice session was an error in Whincup’s Red Bull Holden Racing Team camp. Vacating pit-lane for his final run, he was momentarily impeded when a member of his crew left the spike for his air-jacks attached. But, he was able to eventually press on. The seven-time champ ended the 30-minute run in 14th.