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Friday Wrap: What really is the Townsville pecking order?

Supercars
05 Jul
Supercars.com runs through the key talking points from the action
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Supercars returned to a more conventional weekend format on Friday in Townsville after two sprint events, and it was Cam Waters with the practice double.

Teams had two 40-minute practice sessions to fine tune their Supercars for this weekend’s NTI Townsville 500, and it was the same car on top in both sessions

The skies were overcast, and the time sheets were jumbled – and, as practice days come, there was plenty of learning to be done.

Tickford Racing looked quick based on the time sheets, with Thomas Randle also fast. Meanwhile, the reigning champs showed promise, while the current championship leaders didn't feature.

After an intriguing day at Reid Park, Supercars.com runs through the key talking points from the action.

Fast Fords... but how fast?

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Cam Waters claimed the Friday headlines with a practice double, with Tickford Racing teammate Thomas Randle second in Practice 1, and fourth in Practice 2. Waters was comfortably near the top during both sessions, a far cry to sitting fifth and ninth in the two Friday sessions in Darwin three weeks ago. Waters was strong on the Soft tyre in Perth, but like Ford rival Chaz Mostert, fell away on the Super Soft. Tickford has to turn it into results on race day, and Waters is feeling confident, saying: "Really good day for us. We rolled out of the truck really good. Made a few changes, some were good, some were bad. But, really helped set up kind of our weekend."

Erebus rollercoaster

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Jack Le Brocq dominated Practice 2 before Waters set his late flyer, denying the reigning champions a Friday practice-topping headline. Both Erebus Camaros seemed to have good pace, but for the third round in a row, Brodie Kostecki has been left facing questions over the reliability of his car. The Kostecki Camaro ended up eighth in Practice 2, but requires an overnight steering rack change after he felt "lost." It wasn't the only steering drama on Friday, with Cameron Hill losing almost all of Practice 1. The championship is slipping away, but even in the hunt for wins, Erebus can't afford to lose more winning opportunities to reliability woes.

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Where is Triple Eight?

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Triple Eight has 22 wins in 38 Townsville races, but the runaway championship leaders didn't make a major bang on Friday. Will Brown was third and 12th, with Broc Feeney 13th and 10th. While drivers don't get trophies on Friday, Triple Eight often gets the ball rolling ahead of the race, and more often than not this season, has converted on race day. On this occasion, Brown suggested a mixed tyre batch could have masked the team's performance, saying: "I felt like we made gains but I think the different batch of tyres are a fair bit different and we just struggled on our allocations, which showed in Practice 2."

Shocks and surprises

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Beyond Waters and Triple Eight, Mostert was 15th and fifth, with Nick Percat 20th and 11th. Mark Winterbottom was 14th and third, Matt Payne was fifth and seventh, Andre Heimgartner sixth twice, Anton De Pasquale seventh and 13th, and James Courtney fourth and 21st. Drivers were all over the place, and yes, while it is only practice, drivers will be setting the grid the next time they hit the track on Saturday morning. Remember James Golding, who dominated the early part of the Darwin weekend and claimed pole? He was only 22nd and 20th on Friday.

So, what’s the true pecking order?

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Teams hand back pre-marked tyres after practice, and from Saturday morning, it's all happening in Boost Mobile Qualifying. Everyone starts from zero tomorrow, creating a level playing field. What will prove critical is if drivers and teams were able to get a true read on the track before qualifying. In both Friday sessions, we didn't see the rush of times in the final minutes. On combined practice times, there were eight different teams represented in the top 10. Is Waters still the benchmark? Has Triple Eight got plenty up its sleeve? Can Erebus stay at the top? Or, could another team spring a surprise? Even then, there are plenty of unknowns when it comes to tyre degradation, and hence how the weekend's two races will play out.

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