Scott McLaughlin has claimed the quickest time of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 so far, setting a 2:04.371 to lead an impressive Bryce Fullwood in the final practice session before qualifying later today.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Kiwi, though, with a crash at Forest Elbow marring his final run in the dying minutes of the session. He was still able to retain the top spot; Fullwood, Lee Holdsworth, Cameron Waters, Jamie Whincup, and Shane van Gisbergen in tow.
McLaughlin was unsurprisingly one of the first to dip into the fives, via a 2:05.880 early in the session. After the first 10 minutes of running, he led Nick Percat, Bryce Fullwood, Chaz Mostert, and Fabian Coulthard. Although barely a minute later, and Waters had knocked McLaughlin off the top with a 2:05.559.
With ominous clouds continuing to skirt Mount Panorama, McLaughlin was able to get back by Waters on a 2:05.398 — a time compromised by a slide coming out of The Chase, triggered by the Kiwi awkwardly catching the inside kerb.
A similar mistake blighted Anton De Pasquale a few minutes later; his slide much more extended and resulting in an instant visit to pit lane. His Penrite Racing teammate David Reynolds made a mistake at turn one not long after, harmlessly straight-lining down the turn one escape road.
At the halfway point, McLaughlin and Waters had been split by James Courtney. Mostert, Andre Heimgartner, Lee Holdsworth, and Shane van Gisbergen were in tow. But, again, change would come quickly after. The time was delivered by Mostert — a 2:04.758 the first four of the session. Waters then bettered it, with a 2:04.675.
Absent from the lead pack for much of the session was Jamie Whincup. After a ropey first attempt at a lap underlined by a brief tyre lock at turn two, he jumped from 20th to first with 21 minutes to go on a 2:04.628.
McLaughlin was next to take a turn on brand spanking new rubber; his lap commencing with almost exactly 20 minutes to go in the session. He chewed over a tenth out of Whincup’s time in the first sector, and then another two tenths come sector two. A 2:04.371 resulted, promoting him back to first.
As the final 10 minutes arrived, Lee Holdsworth was the next driver to have a crack at the lead — rocketing to second with a 2:04.529.His teammate Waters was next, jumping Whincup to take over third. The surprise next candidate was Fullwood, placing himself second on a stellar 2:04.484. But there was a full qualifying run dress rehearsal to come.
With two minutes to go, happy hour kicked off, but not for McLaughlin. After setting a purple first sector and looking in target to do it again in the second, McLaughlin skipped it sideways on entry to Forest Elbow — knocking the inside wall and bending his Shell V-Power Mustang. Car 17’s crabbing down Conrod Straight indicated that he wouldn’t be further improving on his time.
In the end McLaughlin would lead Fullwood, Holdsworth, Waters, and both Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodores. Among the few to improve following McLaughlin’s crash was Alex Davison; the Team Sydney racer ending up a commendable eighth behind Mostert, and ahead of Courtney and Scott Pye.
More to come.