Lee Holdsworth has edged Shane van Gisbergen to top spot in the first practice session for the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.
First position was, for the most part, a three-way contest between the aforementioned two and David Reynolds, who ended up almost a quarter of a second off the pace in third.
Championship leader Scott McLaughlin had a short spell as the fastest driver but was shuffled all the way back to 15th by the end of the 40-minute session.
James Courtney and then Reynolds were the initial pace-setters before McLaughlin took a damper change in the #17 Shell V-Power FGX Falcon just before the halfway mark.
Holdsworth, who had been fourth at the time, went a couple of hundredths faster around three minutes later.
The lead changed five more times in the final couple of runs before Holdsworth wheeled the #18 Preston Hire ZB Commodore to a 1:10.8203s in the 39th minute.
That lap knocked the #97 Red Bull HRT ZB Commodore off the top by 0.0630s and was 0.2429s faster than Reynolds’ best in the #9 Erebus Penrite ZB Commodore.
“I sort of need to show what I can do; haven’t had the opportunity all year,” said Holdsworth, whose future is uncertain.
“Finally we’ve rolled out something that’s quite a decent car; I’ve got confidence to push this thing right up on the walls and everything like that.
“I just love these street circuits, I love Newcastle as a track, it’s awesome.
“I’m having fun but got a lot on the mind as well.”
Regarding the strong westerly winds which made for a headwind on the main straight, Holdsworth explained, “You feel it coming down the hill, not so much anywhere else on the track because you’re protected by concrete walls.
“Just up to Turn 2 and coming down to the (Turn 11) hairpin, you really feel the car gets a bit blown around.
“That allows us to brake very deep into the hairpin, but it is inconsistent because the wind is stronger some laps than others.
“But generally it doesn’t affect us too much.
“Just a wild little street circuit and you can really push hard and get a little bit more out of it if you’re willing to take the risk. I’ve got nothing to lose this weekend.”
Van Gisbergen reported an unusual start to his session.
“The first lap I came around there was a big tree branch on the track; That wasn’t cool,” he smiled.
“This is track, it’s one of the only tracks, it’s up there with Bathurst where you have to build up, you can’t just go straight to the time.
“Especially coming down the hill, you want to go flat, your brain is doing it, but then your foot just comes off; you’re a softy, got to tighten the belts and get used to it. Awesome track to drive.
“First session here, you brake into Turn 1 one lap with a big headwind and the car slows up and then the next lap you try and brake later and there’s no wind. It’s so variable. It’s a challenge for everyone.
“Car feels good, it’s a good start.”
Chaz Mostert was fourth at 0.4803s in the #55 Supercheap Auto FGX Falcon, while Craig Lowndes vaulted up 18 positions to fifth after the chequered flag in the black and gold #888 Autobarn ZB Commodore.
Rounding out the top 10 were Scott Pye (#2 Boost Mobile ZB Commodore), his team-mate Courtney (#25 ZB Commodore), Andre Heimgartner (#7 Plus Fitness Nissan Altima), and Simona de Silvestro (#78 Harvey Norman Nissan Altima).
Fabian Coulthard (#12 DJR Team Penske FGX Falcon) finished one position higher than his team-mate McLaughlin.
Jamie Whincup (#1 Triple Eight ZB Commodore) was 0.7585s slower than the leader in 16th.
The session ran without interruption, although Anton De Pasquale did bring a smoky #99 Erebus ZB Commodore into the garage after around a quarter of an hour.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship field will be back on-track this afternoon for Practice 2 at 1515 local time/AEDT.
Results: Practice 1
|1||18||Preston Hire Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.8203|
|2||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.8833||0:00.0630|
|3||9||Erebus Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.0632||0:00.2429|
|4||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.3006||0:00.4803|
|5||888||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.3321||0:00.5118|
|6||2||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.3852||0:00.5649|
|7||25||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||James Courtney||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.3903||0:00.5700|
|8||23||Drive Racing||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||1:11.4125||0:00.5922|
|9||7||Plus Fitness Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Nissan Altima||1:11.4139||0:00.5936|
|10||78||Team Harvey Norman||Simona de Silvestro||Nissan Altima||1:11.4275||0:00.6072|
|11||100||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.4381||0:00.6178|
|12||19||Tekno Autosports||Jack Le Brocq||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.4487||0:00.6284|
|13||230||Milwaukee Racing||Will Davison||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.5115||0:00.6912|
|14||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.5520||0:00.7317|
|15||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.5647||0:00.7444|
|16||1||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.5788||0:00.7585|
|17||8||Timken Racing||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.6312||0:00.8109|
|18||35||Bigmate Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore VF2||1:11.6339||0:00.8136|
|19||15||Castrol Racing||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||1:11.7519||0:00.9316|
|20||56||RABBLE.club Racing||Richie Stanaway||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.7672||0:00.9469|
|21||14||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.7701||0:00.9498|
|22||33||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.8230||0:01.0027|
|23||34||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Golding||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.8753||0:01.0550|
|24||5||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.9136||0:01.0933|
|25||99||Erebus Penrite Racing||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||1:12.0663||0:01.2460|
|26||21||Team CoolDrive||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore ZB||1:12.0726||0:01.2523|