Canto leads Prodrive one-two in co-driver practice
By Mitchell Adam
Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Dean Canto led a Prodrive Racing Australia one-two in the co-drivers’ opening Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 practice session.
Prodrive started the 2017 Great Race weekend on top with Chaz Mostert on this morning, and had three of its Falcons in the top six in Practice 2, with Mostert’s partner Steve Owen second and Sandown 500 winner Richie Stanaway sixth.
After a pair of red flag periods in the first half of the 60-minute session, Paul Dumbrell and Warren Luff took the times into the 2:08s and 2:07s brackets, split by a spell for Alex Premat at the top of the order.
Luff’s Mobil 1 HSV Racing stablemate Jack Perkins lowered the benchmark to 2:07.3404s entering the final 20 minutes of running.
A flurry of quick times followed, initially with Stanaway jumping up to second and then top spot on consecutive laps with a 2:07.3126s with eight minutes remaining.
Owen went fastest on consecutive laps with three minutes to go, James Golding and Tony D’Alberto briefly pipping him between them, Shell V-Power Racing’s D’Alberto dipping below the 2:07s barrier.
Canto ultimately emerged on top with a 2:06.3269s in the Falcon he’s sharing with Mark Winterbottom, sporting a tribute to Allan Moffat and Colin Bond’s 1977 Bathurst one-two for Ford.
“It’s pretty cool to see a 2:06.3s come up on the dash,” said Canto.
“We went pretty long on the first set of tyres but through some greens on it then.
“There’s still a bit of work to do, but it’s my 19th year here so I’m pretty comfortable with the track.
“We’re still working on the locking margin in the front, late towards the apex. Mark had a fair bit (of locking) in his session, as you approach the corner you get that little inside lock that causes understeer.
“It’s not going to take much to fix it. We made it better then, but we’ll keep tuning it up, we won’t stop.”
Canto was ultimately 0.4339 seconds clear of Owen at the top.
“I’m surprised with the competitiveness of my time because I just blew the cobwebs out and I was second quickest,” Owen said.
“Chaz has gone in a direction with the car set-up that is fairly different and it’s up to me to get my head around it.
“My job isn’t to change stuff, it’s to change me.”
D’Alberto wound up fourth, ahead of Erebus Motorsport’s Luke Youlden, Stanaway and Perkins, while Steven Richards improved twice in the final 10 minutes to finish eighth.
Chris Pither was ninth in the second Erebus Commodore, while Garry Jacobson ensured all four Prodrive Falcons finished inside the top 10 and Jack Le Brocq was the best of the Nissans in 12th.
Premat and Dumbrell fell to 17th and 18th in the order, the latter having minor offs at The Chase and Murray’s Corner and then spending the last block of the session in the Triple Eight garage.
In the other Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore, Matt Campbell was only 23rd, having overshot Hell Corner in the closing stages.
Brad Jones Racing’s Freightliner Commodore took no part following Tim Slade’s crash at the Esses in the first session.
The team’s focus is on getting the car back on track on Friday, with Slade’s co-driver Walsh climbing aboard its #8 Boost Mobile Commodore in the first phase.
Walsh crashed heavily at Phillip Island in a prototype sportscar last week and was assessing his injured ribs before handing over to Macauley Jones.
However Walsh went off at The Chase and beached the Commodore after two flying laps in what was expected to be a brief run, bringing out the red flag just over 10 minutes into the session.
Bathurst debutant Richard Muscat brought out the second before the halfway point.
The Garry Rogers Motorsport Commodore clipped the inside concrete wall at the Dipper after running wide on the entry, and then nudged the newly-installed tyre wall on the outside.
Muscat finished at the foot of the times, while the Slade/Walsh Commodore was joined on the sidelines by Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport’s Alex Rullo/Alex Davison entry.
Rullo hit the wall at Forrest’s Elbow in the opening session and it is understood a parts shortage kept the Commodore off track, rather than the team being unable to repair the right-front damage.