Walkinshaw Andretti United have made a near perfect start to their 2021 Supercars campaign, with Chaz Mostert and Bryce Fullwood posting the fastest and third fastest times in the first practice session of the Repco Bathurst 500 weekend.
Shane van Gisbergen ended the session in 12th, but led most of the 60-minute run.
This left Andre Heimgartner as the quickest of the Kiwis, posting the fifth quickest time for Kelly Grove Racing.
Van Gisbergen was one of the session’s early leaders, becoming the first driver to post a time in the 2min 06sec bracket some 10 minutes into the session. Twenty minutes into the session, the Kiwi led Tim Slade, an impressive Will Brown, Chaz Mostert, and Jamie Whincup.
By the session’s halfway mark, van Gisbergen’s 2:06.562 was still enough to lead the way despite the efforts of Mostert and Brown, who had both slipped by Slade prior to the 30-minute mark. Brown’s ongoing momentum was commendable, until the series rookie crashed coming down the mountainwith just over 27 minutes remaining.
Brown had grazed the inside wall of The Dipper, before collecting the outside wall on corner exit — coming to a rest halfway to the bend before Forest Elbow. The 22-year-old was able to get out of the car uninjured. A lengthy delay ensued.
As practice one approached the last 20 minutes, van Gisbergen continued to hold first, as teams used the period to continue to bed in their cars and drivers. The lead order remained largely unchanged during this phase, apart from a jump from Anton De Pasquale to fifth.
With 10 minutes to go, Mostert appeared to be stringing together a good enough lap to de-throne van Gisbergen (posting session best times in sectors one and two), only to lose momentum down Conrod Straight and through the final sector.
Some three quarters of the field took the opportunity to finish the session with a qualifying run dress rehearsal — peeling into pit-lane for one last set of changes and an out-lap to flying lap cycle.
The whole field returned to the track to attack the mountain in the final laps, in a phase that finally saw plenty of change on the totem pole. Van Gisbergen’s time was immediately shot by a series of 2min 05sec times, lead by Mostert’s 2:05.2056. It proved to be an untouchable time, with nobody coming close to the 2014 Bathurst 1000 champ’s benchmark as the clock struck zero.
A flurry of late improvers shuffled van Gisbergen back to 12th in short time; the Kiwi unable to set another clean lap. Instead Waters was Mostert’s nearest rival on the timesheets half a second behind.
Mostert’s teammate Bryce Fullwood ended up third, with Whincup, Andre Heimgartner, Scott Pye, Slade, De Pasquale, James Courtney, and David Reynolds completing the top 10. On his return to DJR, Will Davison ended up 11th, and Fabian Coulthard rounded out the Kiwi contingent in 16th.
More to come.