Kelly fastest in opening Darwin practice

Rick Kelly pic: Matthew Paul Photography

A late effort has seen Rick Kelly return to the head of the timesheets in Practice 1 for the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown.

The Nissan Motorsport driver sat atop the order after the first runs before Scott McLaughlin held the fastest lap for much of the session.

Kelly moved back into first position in the final four minutes, taking the #15 Castrol Racing Altima around Hidden Valley Raceway in 1:06.5065s.

“You’re not too worried about where you are at the end of Practice 1, you don’t know what tyres everyone’s on,” said the 2017 Saturday Darwin Armor All Pole-sitter post-session.

“The session itself for us was really strong. We tried a lot of stuff there and the car didn’t fall away and we found a couple of things, which we used to our advantage at the end of the session there on that time.”

While Kelly sat in pit lane as the 45-minute session drew to a close, Jamie Whincup assumed second position with a lap 0.1158s slower in the #1 Red Bull HRT ZB Commodore.

“The car was good,” commented the defending Virgin Australia Supercars champion.

“We had a test day last week and the day started off with the car feeling terrible like it has been and we feel like we have made some inroads.

“I don’t want to speak too soon; the car is feeling good and there is a long way to go (in the weekend).

“There is still a long way to go so it is not do or die (in the championship) but I cannot lose any more. There are no concerns and we will keep going. The good thing is everything is in the toolbox.”

Michael Caruso made it two Altimas in the top three with a 1:06.7014s in the #23 Drive Racing entry just before the chequered flag was waved.

David Reynolds was fastest for a brief moment before being usurped initially by Kelly’s ultimate benchmark, and the #9 Penrite ZB Commodore ended the session in fourth.

Shane van Gisbergen went fifth-fastest in the #97 Triple Eight ZB Commodore in the final minute before outbraking himself and sailing off at Turn 1.

Scott McLaughlin jumped from deep in the timesheets to second and then the lead during the second runs with a 1:06.8095s.

He would go no faster in the #17 Shell V-Power FGX Falcon and ended up sixth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Craig Lowndes (#888 Autobarn ZB Commodore), Tim Slade (#14 Freightliner ZB Commodore), Will Davison (#230 Milwaukee ZB Commodore), and James Courtney (#25 Boost Mobile ZB Commodore).

The top 10 all recorded laps in the 1:06s bracket, while all but one of the other 17 hit bests in the 1:07s.

The lead Tickford Racing entry was the #55 Supercheap Auto FGX Falcon of Chaz Mostert in 14th.

James Moffat drove Car #55 for the first run, having just finished Carrera Cup practice, and along with wildcard entrant Macauley Jones was one of two Pirtek Enduro Cup co-drivers to cut laps.

Jones was one of several to run off the track at Turn 1, most of whom were behind the wheel of ZB Commodores.

He was in fact one of three Brad Jones Racing drivers seen to leave the road at that location, with team-mates Slade and Nick Percat both experiencing noticeable vibrations in the front bar.

“We’re not the only ones who have got a bit of flap going on down the end of the straights,” said team owner Brad Jones.

“It’s really just a matter of adjusting the car. It’s really difficult to know how much front downforce you can get away with.

“We’ll just adjust the car and trim it up and hopefully get it so it’s not a problem in the race.”

Fabian Coulthard was second-fastest after his fourth lap but went no quicker thereafter and ended the hit-out 15th in the #12 DJR Team Penske FGX Falcon.

Another 45-minute practice session follows at 1510 local time/1540 AEST.

Results: Supercars CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown Practice 1

1  15  Castrol Racing Rick Kelly Nissan Altima 1:06.5065*SS
2   1  Red Bull Holden Racing Team Jamie Whincup Holden Commodore ZB 1:06.6223 SS 00.1158
3  23  Drive Racing Michael Caruso Nissan Altima 1:06.7014 SS 00.1949
4   9  Erebus Penrite Racing David Reynolds Holden Commodore ZB 1:06.8031 SS 00.2966
5  97  Red Bull Holden Racing Team Shane Van Gisbergen Holden Commodore ZB 1:06.8062 SS 00.2997
6  17  Shell V-Power Racing Team Scott McLaughlin Ford Falcon FG/X 1:06.8095 SS 00.3030
7 888  Autobarn Lowndes Racing Craig Lowndes Holden Commodore ZB 1:06.8803 SS 00.3738
8  14  Freightliner Racing Tim Slade Holden Commodore ZB 1:06.9347 SS 00.4282
9 230  Milwaukee Racing Will Davison Ford Falcon FG/X 1:06.9648 SS 00.4583
10  25  Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing James Courtney Holden Commodore ZB 1:06.9995 SS 00.4930
11  19  Tekno Autosport Jack Le Brocq Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.0321 SS 00.5256
12   2  Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing Scott Pye Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.0813 SS 00.5748
13  99  Erebus Motorsport Anton de Pasquale Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.1267 SS 00.6202
14  55  Supercheap Auto Racing C.Mostert/J.Moffat Ford Falcon FG/X 1:07.1316 SS 00.6251
15  12  Shell V-Power Racing Team Fabian Coulthard Ford Falcon FG/X 1:07.1432 S 00.6367
16  21  Team CoolDrive Tim Blanchard Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.1742 SS 00.6677
17  56  MEGA Racing Richie Stanaway Ford Falcon FG/X 1:07.1818 SS 00.6753
18   5  The Bottle-O Racing Team Mark Winterbottom Ford Falcon FG/X 1:07.2818 SS 00.7753
19   6  Monster Energy Racing Cameron Waters Ford Falcon FG/X 1:07.3134 SS 00.8069
20  78  Team Harvey Norman Simona De Silvestro Nissan Altima 1:07.3181 SS 00.8116
21   8  Freightliner Racing Nick Percat Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.3721 SS 00.8656
22  18  Preston Hire Racing Lee Holdsworth Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.3837 SS 00.8772
23   7  Plus Fitness Racing Andre Heimgartner Nissan Altima 1:07.5902 SS 01.0837
24  33  Wilson Security Racing GRM Garth Tander Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.7670 SS 01.2605
25  34  Wilson Security Racing GRM James Golding Holden Commodore ZB 1:07.8711 SS 01.3646
26  35  Bigmate Racing Todd Hazelwood Ford Falcon FG/X 1:07.8806 SS 01.3741
27   4  DRILLPRO Racing Macauley Jones Holden Commodore ZB 1:08.3505 SS 01.844

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