A strong practice performance that saw Todd Hazelwood outpace the factory Triple Eight Holdens is ‘a great reward’ for Matt Stone Racing at the WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint.
The single car outfit emerged as the second fastest Holden in eighth while also eclipsing Shane van Gisbergen’s 10th and Jamie Whincup’s 11th in the works ZB Commodores in Practice 2 at Phillip Island.
It means Hazelwood has secured a direct passage to Saturday’s second part of Armor All Qualifying at the Victorian circuit.
The South Australian kicked off the weekend with the 11th fastest time in opening practice, before revealing a ‘big swing’ at the set-up helped yield an improvement from his ex-Jamie Whincup Triple Eight car in Practice 2.
“(I’m) pretty happy with my lap, I was pretty committed and nearly fired off about five times in that lap so to get a reward and be in the 10 really helps tomorrow,” said Hazelwood.
“But a great reward for the team because it’s been a big couple of weeks on the road now, obviously Tassie then having to spend all that time down in Tassie preparing the car, now showing up here, so it’s a great reward for a small team.”
While admitting the result has provided ‘a pep in his and the team’s step’, the 23-year-old is keeping expectations in check.
“It’s Friday practice. Obviously it’s a little pep in our step but we’ll keep our expectations in check — there’s still a lot of racing to do this weekend,” he added.
“Tassie showed the same sort of thing, we were quick in practice but just not when it counted so that will be our biggest thing this weekend.
“(We need to) make sure we’re not practice heroes and we go properly come qualifying and racing tomorrow.”
Having led the way out of the Triple Eight-built Holdens, Hazelwood expects to assist the factory team with his data given its alliance with the Brisbane outfit.
“Yeah that’s what this whole relationship (with Triple Eight) is all about. It’s a two-way street so obviously I’m normally the main benefit from the return,” he said.
“Obviously those guys are the benchmark team and those guys certainly know what they’re doing and I think they’ve just had a tough day and I’m sure they’ll bounce back.”
Triple Eight team owner Roland Dane praised the efforts from from the former Super2 champion on what was a challenging day for his own squad.
“It was good to see him up there so all credit to him and Matt Stone for getting up there, he’s done several good laps today” Dane told Speedcafe.com.
“It’s like seeing Frosty (Mark Winterbottom) in Tasmania, it’s good to see the guys using our equipment doing a great job.
“It’s (the alliance with rival teams) certainly no harm but we need to work our own stuff out, we can’t rely on other people for that,” Dane added, when asked if the alliances with other teams prove more valuable on difficult days.
“They’ve got every right to look at us for some guidance, which we try and give where we can, but we’ve got to originate a lot of this ourselves.”
Hazelwood will be back in action on Saturday in Practice 3 at 1040 AEST before appearing in the second part of Armor All Qualifying.