Three-time Australian V8 Ute Series winner Ryal Harris has topped practice for the opening round of the 2017 series, prevailing in challenging weather conditions at Winton today.
Harris clocked a 1:49.3s in his Ford in the day’s second 20 minute session to top the timesheets ahead of last year’s Winton round winner Kim Jane and Dunlop Super2 Series driver Mason Barbera.
The wet weather proved difficult for a number of drivers and the day’s opening practice was interrupted by a couple of red flags, one due to Keven Stoopman beaching his Trik Trailers Falcon at Turn 3.
“The circuit was very slippery at that corner and a number of drivers were caught out, unfortunately I ended up stranded in the gravel and caused the red flag,” Stoopman said.
“I was struggling a bit with brake feel and once the brakes locked up I had no steering control.”
Experienced racer Jane also had a close call, lightly brushing the wall on the exit of the second corner, while Ute racing debutant Cameron Crick and veteran racer Richard Mork both had high-speed excursions at Turn 1.
Key contenders Jane and Barbera expressed their feelings on the changing conditions.
“When the weather conditions are like this, it’s tough for the driver and the team,” Jane said.
“The forecast is looking a lot better for the rest of the weekend, but it’s still important to get a good wet setup in case it does rain for qualifying and the races.
"We were experimenting with a few things in the first session and the conditions were constantly changing.
“I enjoy Winton and I went well last year so hopefully our car is strong in the dry as well."
Barbera felt he had performance in reserve after the second session.
“We were fastest at one stage during the session but we came in early, because we wanted to get a read on tyre pressures,” Barbera said.
“If we had stayed out while the track was improving, I’m sure we could have been faster.
“We came out of the day with some useful setup information and I’m sure we’ll be on the pace in qualifying, whether it’s wet or dry.”
Qualifying for the V8 Utes will be held at 12:20pm tomorrow, followed by Race 1 (10 laps) at 2:55pm.