Courtney tops opening Practice at the Island

James Courtney pic: Matt O’Brien

James Courtney ended opening practice for the WD-40 Phillip Island 500 fastest for Walkinshaw Andretti United.

Courtney moved into the the top spot in the latter part of the session, taking over from team-mate Scott Pye who briefly headed the timesheets.

“We rolled out this morning and straight away, first run, first lap, the thing went up the top, so I’m super pumped,” said Courtney.

“The platform of the car feels really quite stable, very consistent in these high-speed, long, loaded corners.

“With that stability and consistency in the corners it gives us as drivers a lot better idea of the grip level you’ve got, so then you can use all of it, where as previously here the car’s been really unsure and quite nervous, so I couldn’t be more happy.”

A late lap for Scott McLaughlin saw the DJR Team Penske driver second fastest, surviving the first tyre failure of the weekend midway through proceedings.

As McLaughlin headed down the front straight his right Dunlop gave way, leaving the New Zealander to limp the car slowly back to the pit lane before returning to the track to set his best of 1:30.6765s.

Several drivers jumped up the order in the dying moments, including Shane van Gisbergen, Craig Lowndes and Cam Waters.

Pye had taken over at the top of the timesheets from David Reynolds, who had set the benchmark effort for the session.

McLaughlin set the early pace courtesy of his position at the head of pit lane, but quickly found that time beaten.

The DJR Team Penske driver fell outside of the top five in the first half of the session, the leading Falcon driver.

Scott Pye went to the top of the standings just after the halfway point of the session, improving on Reynolds’ best of 1:31.3582s.

His performance was backed up by the sister Walkinshaw Andretti United as Courtney improved to a 1:30.9365s effort to best Pye by 0.14s.

Another quick lap moved Courtney further clear of the pack with a 1:30.6461s which would prove to be the fastest time of the session.

Todd Hazelwood temporarily found himself fourth fastest with little more than two minutes left in the session, making the Matt Stone Racing driver the fastest of the eight Ford runners.

McLaughlin soon ensured normal service was resumed in the Ford camp, banking the second best time of the session, less than a tenth behind Courtney, though Hazelwood hung on to end the session 11th fastest on a 1:31.5911s.

A locked brake from Mark Winterbottom saw the Tickford Racing driver skating through the gravel in the opening minutes of the session.

He was followed by an almost identical off by Mostert after nearly 15 minutes of the session, returning to the pits complaining of front end feel.

The Tickford Racing pair ended the opening practice session 16th and 19th respectively, Winterbottom more than a second off the pace shown by Courtney.

The Southern Loop proved a hotspot with drivers as Andre Heimgartner also found the gravel having grabbed a brake, ending the session in 21st.

The lead Nissan runner was Rick Kelly, who had a spell inside the top five for much of the session before dropping to 12th at the end of the session.

Simona de Silvestro was 14th fastest, banking an improved lap on her final timed attempt at 1:31.6979s.

Elsewhere, De Pasquale fell off the road on the approach to Lukey Heights, skimming through the gravel trap and rejoining as the chequered flag flew, the Eerebus Motorsport driver 18th.

Second practice is scheduled to begin at 1435 for Practice 2.

Results: Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, WD-40 Phillip Island 500, Practice 1

Pos Car Competitor/Team Driver Vehicle Time
1 25 Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing James Courtney Holden Commodore ZB 1:30.646
2 17 Shell V-Power Racing Team Scott McLaughlin Ford Falcon FG/X 1:30.677
3 97 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Shane Van Gisbergen Holden Commodore ZB 1:30.724
4 888 Autobarn Lowndes Racing Craig Lowndes Holden Commodore ZB 1:30.757
5 6 Monster Energy Racing Cameron Waters Ford Falcon FG/X 1:30.780
6 8 Coregas Racing Nick Percat Holden Commodore ZB 1:31.031
7 2 Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing Scott Pye Holden Commodore ZB 1:31.039
8 12 Shell V-Power Racing Team Fabian Coulthard Ford Falcon FG/X 1:31.263
9 9 Erebus Penrite Racing David Reynolds Holden Commodore ZB 1:31.358
10 33 Wilson Security Racing GRM Garth Tander Holden Commodore ZB 1:31.380
11 35 Bigmate Racing Todd Hazelwood Ford Falcon FG/X 1:31.591
12 15 Castrol Racing Rick Kelly Nissan Altima 1:31.603
13 18 Preston Hire Racing Lee Holdsworth Holden Commodore ZB 1:31.672
14 78 Team Harvey Norman Simona De Silvestro Nissan Altima 1:31.698
15 230 Milwaukee Racing Will Davison Ford Falcon FG/X 1:31.703
16 200 The Bottle-O Racing Team Mark Winterbottom Ford Falcon FG/X 1:31.710
17 1 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Jamie Whincup Holden Commodore ZB 1:31.751
18 99 Erebus Thermosphere Racing Anton de Pasquale Holden Commodore ZB 1:31.764
19 55 Supercheap Auto Racing Chaz Mostert Ford Falcon FG/X 1:31.820
20 56 MEGA Racing Richie Stanaway Ford Falcon FG/X 1:31.888
21 7 Plus Fitness Racing Andre Heimgartner Nissan Altima 1:31.942
22 23 Drive Racing Michael Caruso Nissan Altima 1:31.948
23 34 Wilson Security Racing GRM James Golding Holden Commodore ZB 1:32.161
24 14 Freightliner Racing Tim Slade Holden Commodore ZB 1:32.376
25 21 Team CoolDrive Tim Blanchard Holden Commodore ZB 1:32.410
26 19 Tekno Autosport Jack Le Brocq Holden Commodore ZB 1:32.531

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