Rick Kelly quickest in Hidden Valley heat
Rick Kelly led the way for Nissan as a typically hot weekend of Supercars action kicked off at Hidden Valley.
Kelly’s team-mate Michael Caruso topped the order for the bulk of the hour until the Sengled entry moved to P1 on 1:07.05s with seven minutes remaining.
The 2006 champion was one of many to switch to a second set of pre-marked tyres for the final minutes, which saw the order shuffle dramatically.
David Reynolds briefly went second before Shane van Gisbergen and eventually Jamie Whincup took over the runner-up spot.
“Most of the session was just tuning through our plan, not outright car pace,” stressed Kelly post-session.
“It was good to tick all that off and now we can focus on making it quicker in the second one.”
Whincup was meanwhile highly encouraged by his run, who like Kelly completed 25 laps across the hour.
“I’m much happier with my car, it’s better than it’s been for three or four months really,” he said.
“I think the test day certainly helped us get a better base, but it doesn’t guarantee results.”
Caruso ended up fifth ahead of Winton winner Tim Slade, Lee Holdsworth, Scott McLaughlin, Chaz Mostert and Fabian Coulthard.
The session gave drivers their first taste of the venue with a revised drop gear ratio, which has been implemented this year to keep the cars off the rev limiter at the end of the front straight.
Many meanwhile complained of a lack of lateral rear grip on the surface, which was new 12 months ago.
Several had harmless off-track excursions at Turns 1 and 5, while Craig Lowndes went on two sideways adventures through the grass at the exit of Turn 7 on the way to 15th.
Volvo’s James Moffat was the only driver to touch the barriers, gently coming to rest against the tyres at Turn 10 late in the going after losing the rear through the high-speed Turn 10.
Moffat was able to rejoin under his own power but was just 18th fastest at the chequered flag.
The Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney and Garth Tander ended their first sessions working with new race engineers 14th and 21st respectively.
New chassis meanwhile took Mark Winterbottom and Scott Pye to just 14th and 17th respectively, with the former admitting his car is “not doing what it’s meant to at the moment”.
Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport’s Andre Heimgartner endured a difficult session, returning to pitlane in the opening minutes with a power steering problem.
The Kiwi eventually logged 17 laps to be 24th fastest.
Todd Kelly and Tim Blanchard sat out the early stages of the session as co-drivers Matt Campbell and Macauley Jones logged laps ahead of the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
A second 60 minute session will take place from 1345 local time.
Result: Virgin Australia Supercars Championship CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown Practice 1
|1||Sengled Motorsport||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||1:07.0515*S|
|2||Red Bull Racing Australia||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.0730 S||00.0215|
|3||Red Bull Racing Australia||Shane Van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.0956 S||00.0441|
|4||Erebus Motorsport Penrite||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.2346 S||00.1831|
|5||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||1:07.2873 S||00.2358|
|6||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.3947 S||00.3432|
|7||Preston Hire Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.4242 S||00.3727|
|8||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Scott McLaughlin||Volvo S60||1:07.4243 S||00.3728|
|9||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:07.4696 S||00.4181|
|10||DJR Team Penske||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:07.5193 S||00.4678|
|11||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.5868 S||00.5353|
|12||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:07.5878 S||00.5363|
|13||Team Darrell Lea STIX||Will Davison||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.6334 S||00.5819|
|14||Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.6759 S||00.6244|
|15||TeamVortex||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.6914 S||00.6399|
|16||carsales Racing||T.Kelly/M.Campbell||Nissan Altima||1:07.7062 S||00.6547|
|17||DJR Team Penske||Scott Pye||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:07.7272 S||00.6757|
|18||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Moffat||Volvo S60||1:07.8243 S||00.7728|
|19||Super Black Racing||Chris Pither||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:07.8244 S||00.7729|
|20||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:07.8467 S||00.7952|
|21||Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore VF||1:07.8991 S||00.8476|
|22||Team Cooldrive||T.Blanchard/M.Jones||Holden Commodore VF||1:08.0145 S||00.9630|
|23||ABRO/Repair Management Aust||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore VF||1:08.0529 S||01.0014|
|24||ABRO/Repair Management Aust||Andre Heimgartner||Holden Commodore VF||1:08.0816 S||01.0301|
|25||GB Galvanizing Racing||Dale Wood||Nissan Altima||1:08.2218 S||01.1703|
|26||Plus Fitness Racing||Aaren Russell||Holden Commodore VF||1:08.6315 S||01.5800|