The V8’s roared out onto the streets of Townsville for three practice sessions in readiness for the Castrol Townsville 500. Our own Christian Hartung was trackside to bring you his report and some superb photographic highlights…
The opening practice session saw last year’s race-winner, HRT’s Garth Tander, out in front in the early stages. The times started in the 1m14s range and got progressively quicker over the twenty-minute session with Shane Van Gisbergen bettering Tander’s time by 0.7 seconds with a 1:14.099.
Ten minutes remained and the top-five contenders were van Gisbergen, closely followed by Tander, with his teammate James Courtney in 3rd. Todd Kelly was an impressive fourth-fastest in the Nissan, while Nick Percat was in P5 to mark a solid session for the Walkinshaw Performance stable. The final result of the session didn’t change much from how it looked at the halfway point.
Lee Holdsworth’s Erebus AMG had a small spin at the final turn, but rejoined without incident.
Practice 2 saw van Gisbergen and Tander leads the way once again. The opening exchanges were set by reigning champion Jamie Whincup and this year’s points leader, Mark Winterbottom, but the pair were knocked off top spot by Tim Slade’s SuperCheap Auto Holden which posted a 1:14.6.
Tander knocked four-tenths off Slade’s time to move into top spot, only to find himself usurped by street circuit specialist van Gisbergen. Scott McLaughlin finished the session third-fastest in his Volvo S60, while teammate Robert Dahlgren triggered a red flag when he crashed his car.
The final practice session saw the Erebus outfit claim a rather surprising 1-2 on the timesheets. The HRT duo of Tander and Courtney lead proceedings early on, only for Lee Holdsworth to pop his AMG C63 at the top of the timesheets with a 1:14.37 before blitzing the opposition in the closing stages with a 1:13.78 lap-time.
Craig Lowndes briefly challenged Holdsworth’s provisional P1 spot – along with the two HRTs – but ultimately all were knocked down a few spots by Holdsworth’s teammate Will Davison and the Volvo of Scott McLaughlin, who completed the top-three positions.
Saturday sees one more free practice session before two separate ten-minute qualifying sessions that will determine the starting order for the afternoon’s respective 125-kilometre races.
Images via Christian Hartung