James Moffat has for most of the year been amongst the best performed of the Nissan Motorsport ‘rookie’ team, today providing the latest addition to V8 Supercars with their first ‘win’.
Moffat, son of the great Allan Moffat, was already on a high from this week signing a new multi-year deal with Nissan Motorsport, and made the most of changeable conditions in Winton today.
He piloted his bright yellow Norton Hornets Nissan Altima to a time-topping practice performance ahead of two of the sport's other young stars, The Bottle-O FPR Racing’s David Reynolds and Dick Johnson Racing’s Wilson Security entry Chaz Mostert.
Moffat has been a consistent performer as Nissan works its way back into Australian motorsport since its reintroduction last year, along with Erebus Motorsport V8 running three Mercedes-Benz AMG E63s against the traditional Ford-Holden rivals.
While today was practice and conditions may not have suited many, Moffat was enthused that his team was on the foot front despite challenges with some areas of engine performance.
“It was obviously very changeable conditions so you had to be on your game. It was easy to make mistakes as we saw. Let’s see what happens tomorrow,” Moffat said.
“On paper Winton is probably the track that was least going to affect us with the struggles we are having with the engine. That means into this weekend we have confidence our speed will be better.
“We have been saying all along the cars have been positive in terms of handling and that has shown. A good handling car around here is absolutely crucial.”
Moffat returned with Nissan this year as somewhat a driver with an uncertain future but now has a long-term deal and just reward as one of the strong new breed in the sport.
“It’s good to have that locked away and a bit of peace of mind; a bit of certainty for the next few years at least. It’s good for the team and everyone involved because it allows us to focus on the job at hand. It was always my intention to stay with the team,” he said.
“It has been a pleasant experience so far with challenges along the way. Developing the new car was always going to be that way.”
Of the Championship front-runners Will Davison was fifth in one of the Pepsi Max Crew FPR Falcons, Craig Lowndes was down the sheets in 16th with Jamie Whincup one place behind him and Mark Winterbottom even further back in 23rd.
The conditions meant plenty of red flags as cars became stuck off-track.
Ekol Racing’s Scott Pye was the first off-track in the session, which stopped running just 17 minutes into the practice session. But it was Lee Holdsworth’s time off-track that saw a red flag for 14 minutes.
The session finished under red when Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney went off – at turn four, the same place as Holdsworth – with just over five minutes to go, leaving Moffat at the top ahead of David Reynolds and Chaz Mostert.
Mostert won the final race at the last event and also managed fourth in the day’s earlier practice session, followed by another Coates Hire Ipswich 360 winner in Scott McLaughlin.
Pepsi Max Crew FPR’s Will Davison completed the top five.
Nick Percat, Karl Reindler and Dean Canto were the only co-drivers to feature in the second session.
Second placed Reynolds described it as musical chairs, and many big name drivers were caught out by the early ending.
A final practice session follows tomorrow morning ahead of a qualifying session and 60/60 Super Sprint race.