Tickford duo top wet co-driver practice

  • 5 Days ago
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Late laps from David Russell and Steve Owen gave Tickford Racing a one-two at the top of the order in a wet Supercars additional driver practice session at Winton.

The 30-minute session was run in heavily-wet conditions, with the Russell’s session-topping 1:38.0430s a full 20 seconds away from the circuit’s practice lap record.

Initial times had been another 10 seconds slower, but a combination of slightly improved conditions and drivers settling into the cars brought gradual improvement.

The order changed rapidly throughout the first half, before Bryce Fullwood – having his first run in Matt Stone Racing’s Bigmate Ford – clocked 1:38.9426s 17 minutes in.

That time stood until just under three minutes remained, when James Moffat, in Chaz Mostert’s Tickford entry, went 0.1089s quicker.

Garry Jacobson (#15 Nissan) and Macauley Jones (#8 Brad Jones Holden) also spent time at the top, before Russell had the last laugh with the chequered flag flying.

Owen went second moments later, but even he was over 0.5s adrift of Russell, who has moved from Nissan to Tickford for 2018’s PIRTEK Enduro Cup, sharing with Cameron Waters.

32782618_1951913911507790_3547015079457193984_n

“The car was really good,” smiled Russell, with Tickford continuing the strong wet weather form it showed in last year's enduros.

“In those conditions, the last thing you want to do is go firing off. I think for all of us, there was a bit of margin under brakes and there always is in the wet.

“The car’s been fantastic and it was easy for me to tune some of those things and talk to the engineers.

“It’s in a pretty good window, there’s definitely more in it, I’m sure Cam will jump in it in the same conditions and go faster, but it’s good to open the account with Tickford Racing.”

Jones ended up third ahead of Dean Canto, another Tickford driver to improve late, Jacobson and Moffat.

Dean Fiore (#23 Nissan), Fullwood, Aaren Russell (#7 Nissan) and new Red Bull recruit Earl Bamber rounded out the top 10.

Having his first run in Shane van Gisbergen’s #97 Commodore, two-time Le Mans winner Bamber starred, spending time at the top early in the going.

The Kiwi was P2 and had gone fastest in the first sector when he pitted with 10 minutes remaining, and did not return to the circuit.

MH1_0627

“It was mega,” said Bamber, whose only previous experience of a modern Supercar came in a brief appearance at a Super2 test in February.

“Unfortunately [there was] a bit of rain, but we said before the session, ‘hey, why not try the rain already?’ It was pretty wet last year [in the enduros] so it was good to get that experience.

“The car was good. A few guys went quicker than us at the end but I’m generally happy with the session.

“For me, it was more about familiarisation, getting a feel for the car than pure lap time.

“I think the lap time was just a bonus in there. [I’m] pretty happy, pretty comfy and now looking forward to the rest of it.”

Triple Eight elected against sending its more experienced co-drivers Paul Dumbrell and Steven Richards out in the conditions.

It was also a policy adopted by Erebus, with neither Luke Youlden or Will Brown running, while the #17 Shell Ford also stayed in its garage due to the absence of Alex Premat.

“You’d rather be in the car but the reality is there’s no point,” noted Richards.

“We’ll get some testing later in the year at QR [Queensland Raceway] and get a feel for the car then.”

Warren Luff ended up at the foot of the times, his session ending after just six laps due to a cooling issue.

Greg Murphy was 15th in his first drive of a Supercar since the corresponding session last year.

The four-time Bathurst winner turned commentator received a late call-up from Tekno Autosports after Jonathon Webb elected to remain in Queensland.

Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Newsletter