Scott McLaughlin tops Practice 1 in Ipswich
SCOTT McLaughlin has rolled his impressive form from North Queensland to south-eastern Queensland, topping Supercars Practice 1 for the Coates Hire Ipswich Supersprint.
Shell V-Power Racing's championship leader set a 1min 09.576sec lap to head Tim Slade by just 0.049sec, with David Reynolds rounding out the top three.
The news was not so good for fellow Ford driver Mark Winterbottom, who is looking for answers after finishing a distant 26th.
"The car's horrible. There's no hiding behind it. I don't know why it's so bad," he said.
"Thankfully it's Practice 1, not Race 1. Two sets of tyres and I've never had a car handle like that before.
"I've just got no front end. When you turn in the front just folds and I'm just running out of road. The corner finishes at some stage, and I'm still trying to turn when I'm (getting) on the throttle. I've got no roll speed.
"When you come in and look at the sectors - we break it down to eight sectors here - and my best is 19th. It's bad everywhere; it's not just one or two corners, it's the whole track. Highlights something, which is good, but now the job is now to try and find it and make it quicker."
McLaughlin wasn't without his own issues, despite setting a time less than half a second shy of the fastest ever practice time at the deceptively fickle track.
"The car was good straight away. Even on the warm-up tyres that we use to warm up the brakes it was pretty good," he said.
"The Turn 1 bump I'm struggling with. I might have to look at some footage to see what I was doing previously to see if I've changed anything. We'll also look at some race cambers and things we'll run for the race."
Fabian Coulthard looks to have bounced back from his poor run in Townsville to finish the session in fourth, while Shane van Gisbergen ended the session fifth.
Rick Kelly, Chaz Mostert, Will Davison, Michael Caruso and Nick Percat rounded out the top 10.
Townsville winner Jamie Whincup ended the session down in 12th but just 0.362sec shy of McLaughlin, with the first 14 cars breaking into the 69-second bracket. James Courtney was not one of them, finishing up 16th, three spots ahead of Craig Lowndes.
Jack Le Brocq was the quickest of the four wildcard entrants who have boosted the field to 30 cars for the weekend, putting the No. 28 Nissan 15th fastest, while Todd Hazelwood ended the session 22nd aboard his own car after topping the Additional Drivers Practice session in Tim Blanchard's CoolDrive Holden.
Along with Winterbottom, the Garry Rogers Motorsport crew will also have a busy afternoon between sessions looking for pace.
Garth Tander was their best performer in 24th, just 0.01 of a second quicker than wildcard James Golding in 25th, with James Moffat a further tenth adrift in 27th.
EARLIER: Todd Hazelwood opened his maiden weekend in the Supercars Championship in the best possible way - but not in his own car.
The South Australian racer headed the Additional Drivers Practice session at the Ipswich Supersprint aboard Brad Jones Racing's No.21 Commodore that he will share with Tim Blanchard at this year's Enduro Cup.
Hazelwood set the pace with a 1m09.7530s, half a second faster than Steven Richards aboard Craig Lowndes' No. 888 Holden and well over a second faster than the best time set in the same session last year - even more impressive given it's Hazelwood's first dry-weather laps in the car.
"It was great fun out there. The BJR CoolDrive Commodore was on rails!" Hazelwood said.
"Obviously I've done quite a few laps around this circuit but the first time in the BJR chassis. Quite different to what I'm used to but very enjoyable."
Hazelwood will now switch to his regular No.35 Matt Stone Racing Holden for the rest of the weekend as he makes his main series debut as a wildcard.
"Change of clothing for this afternoon!" he joked.
"Very special day for me, can't wait to get out there for practice one. I'm very excited, just trying to control it at the moment. Good start to the day."
Fellow wildcard Shae Davies was third fastest aboard the No.26 Matt White Motorsport Nissan Altima, with Luke Youlden next in David Reynolds' No.9 Erebus Motorsport Holden.
The session was an opportunity for teams to run either Enduro Cup co-drivers or to give Super2 drivers laps aboard main game machinery, with Bryce Fullwood and Matt Chahda given temporary CAMS Superlicences to take part in the session.
The former ended up 10th in Todd Kelly's No.7 Nissan, while the latter finished 25th in the No.3 Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport car.
Shell V-Power Racing Team's Tony D'Alberto had a busy session, finishing both eighth and 13th after spending time in both Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin's cars.
The team elected not to bring Alex Premat halfway around the world for a half-hour session.
Red Bull Holden Racing Team made a similar decision, the No.88 and No.97 cars remaining garaged with neither Paul Dumbrell nor Matt Campbell on hand.
The session was largely trouble-free, although the No.8 Brad Jones Racing Commodore failed to make it out of pit lane, engine dramas preventing Macauley Jones from turning a lap in Nick Percat's Dunlop-liveried car.