The first practice session of shootout day at the Repco Bathurst 1000, the co-driver exclusive practice five, has been claimed by Lee Holdsworth; the Walkinshaw Andretti United driver doubling down on his efforts in Friday practice.
Holdsworth ended the 60-minute session heading James Golding, Warren Luff, Thomas Randle, and Dale Wood in fifth.
The biggest incident in the session was a red flag prompted by Andre Heimgarter’s co-driver Matt Campbell; the factory Porsche pilot having a mild lose early in the lap before having a mechanical failure on Conrod Straight.
Predictably, Holdsworth was the early pace setter, clocking the first five of the session; a 2:05.920. After 10 minutes of running he led Garth Tander, James Moffat, Golding, and Webb.
The red flags flew 10 minutes in following a bizarre crash for Heimgartner’s co-driver Campbell. The factory Porsche driver had a slight lose at Sulman Park at the top of the mountain, gently clouting the concrete wall following an over-correction at the kink.
He limped around the rest of the track successfully before his Ned Whisky Mustang suddenly changed direction on Conrod Straight, hitting the wall at a higher speed following apparent steering and brake issues.
Campbell wasn’t the only driver making mistakes. Shortly after the session restarted Tander had a high-speed off at the Chase. The reigning winner locked his right-front tyre under brakes, before bounding through the sand-trap. Tander hit the edge of the sand-trap at an odd angle, sending the Red Bull Commodore airborne.
There was trouble on the other side of the Red Bull garage, too. While Craig Lowndes had kept car No. 88 on track, he spent most of the opening half of the session complaining of a mystery vibration. He was still quick, positioning himself fourth before peeling into pit-lane for an extended systems check 22 minutes in.
Holdsworth was pressing on with it, lowering the benchmark to a 2:05.707 at the 25-minute mark. At halfway, the order was Holdsworth, Golding, impressive rookie Zak Best, Warren Luff, Lowndes, Tander, Tim Blanchard, Moffat, Michael Caruso, and Thomas Randle in 10th.
The mid section of the session was relatively quiet, with teams favouring putting their drivers out for longer runs with less attempts at throwing down big lap-times. As the session hit 20 minutes to go, Randle jumped to third. A few minutes later Holdsworth further improved his best time to a 2:05.642.
Following Tander’s example, the next driver to tour through the sand at the Chase was David Russell. His off featured less up-in-the-air theatrics, but perhaps hinted at mechanical issues rather than driver error. Russell reported that the car went oddly light in the middle of the 300km/h corner, snapping sideways prior to the incident.
With 10 minutes to go the top three remained the same. Webb had improved to fourth, over Best, Luff, Lowndes, Tony D’Alberto, Tander, and Dale Wood.
In the final handful of minutes only a few drivers pushed to attack the timesheets, with most instead continuing the emphasis on race preparation. Blanchard injected himself back into the top five with a 2:06.281, only to be bumped by a quick 2:06.191 from Wood with a minute to go.
The last quick time fired in following the chequered flag was a quickie from Luff. His 2:06.095 jumped him to third, ensuring that two Walkinshaw Andretti United entries would be in the top three.
In the end, Holdsworth led Golding, Luff, Randle, Wood, Webb, Blanchard, Best, Lowndes, and D’Alberto in 10th position. Among the big names outside the 10 were Tander in 11th, Moffat in 13th, and Alex Davison in 18th.