The V8 Supercars drivers and teams endured a bizarre day of practice at Winton as track surface problems resulted in unpredictable grip levels.
The day began with the second-tier Dunlop Series cars barely able to lap within four seconds of their practice lap record as recently laid crack sealant dislodged and spread itself across the surface.
By the end of the day, however, Fabian Coulthard smashed the V8 Supercars practice record by more than a second; leading a train of 16 cars all under the previous benchmark.
The rogue sealant had been largely removed from the surface by the cars across the day, with teams continually cleaning large deposits of the material from underneath their cars.
“In the first couple of laps (of Practice 1), the car felt unbelievably good and then the next lap it was shocking,” Coulthard noted afterward.
“Certainly it seemed a lot better in the last session and maybe we have seen the back-end of it.”
“The track was really strange all day and it’s really hard to find the threshold of grip both in front and rear,” added second-fastest man Lee Holdsworth.
“You feel like you have heaps of rear grip and then once you pass the threshold you break into wheel-spin. It was a really strange one.”
Third-fastest man Van Gisbergen said that the sealant provided both an unusual feeling and sights in the opening hit-out.
“In the first session I was following Russell (Ingall), and as he moved over to let me go there was two black lines following his car,” he said.
“It was really amazing and very difficult to describe what it felt like to drive.”
The changing grip levels, which also included the challenge of a wet second session, made chassis tuning an even greater challenge than usual.
“Certainly on fresh softs the grip is like nothing I have ever experienced here,” added Van Gisbergen.
“When you hit a kerb it felt like you had a bicycle because the thing would just sit up on two wheels.
“Everyone is tuning their cars to the track, but we don’t know if it will be the same tomorrow, so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Teams will therefore have to gamble on set-up choices prior to the back-to-back qualifying sessions tomorrow morning, with the 10 minute hit-outs leaving little time for fine-tuning.
“We’ll just have to see what it’s like when we head back out tomorrow,” concluded Coulthard.