Will Davison has suggested his Mustang almost ‘felt like a GT3 car’ at times after a day of extraordinary practice pace that saw the lap record fall.
The effort was one of four laps clocked in the 2:03s bracket which has only previously been seen when McLaughlin logged his record lap in the Armor All Top 10 Shootout back in 2017.
Record pace was predicted prior to this weekend’s event following a raft of aero changes this season.
Davison was among the select few in the 2:03s bracket, ending Friday’s Practice 3 in fourth as part of a Tickford quartet that filled third through to sixth.
“It’s nearly like the GT3 car over the top. It’s pretty fun,” said Davison, when asked about the blistering practice pace.
New practice lap record holder McLaughlin says his car felt pretty ‘hooked up’ when responding to Davison’s comments, but admitted that it was still a challenge to wheel his car over the top of the mountain.
“It’s pretty hooked,” said McLaughlin.
“The car’s just braking really deep, just throwing it down the gears, basically getting straight back on the gas in some ways.
“The Cutting and stuff is always a bit loose but down at The Chase and over the hill – I think over the hill is still a bit of an art, down Skyline and stuff.
“You’ve still got to dance the feet a bit more than the old GT, which is just hit the brake until that point and then get off it and put the throttle on. I think it’s a bit more of a dance which is pretty enjoyable.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Whincup, who also logged his first 2:03s at Bathurst in a Supercar, 0.15s shy of McLaughlin, was impressed by the speed on show.
“My first one (a 2:03s lap). In this year, the aero era, (it’s) good to do a 2:03 for sure,” he said.
“I wanted to get it in before we get all our wings clipped. No, it was nice. The car was good. We stuck to our plan and executed well.
“It is the downforce era. It’s pretty fast over the top, for sure.”
While the increased downforce has been attributed to the improved pace, Tickford Racing boss Tim Edwards believes that improvements in the mechanical grip by teams is more significant than the effects of aero.
“I think everybody is punching out some pretty competitive times for a Thursday because generally the track gets faster as more rubber goes down over the weekend,” Edwards told Speedcafe.com.
“It is pretty impressive the speed by everybody this weekend. To have all four cars doing pretty much identical lap times and two of them into the 2:03s, its pretty special.
“I can’t speak for the rest of pit lane but we know why we were quicker than we were last year and that is down to a multitude of factors.
“I don’t think it is a reflection on the aero, a larger percentage of the lap time comes out of the mechanical grip not out of the aero.”
DJR Team Penske boss Ryan Story cautioned that, while the speeds on display on Thursday were impressive, the weather could ultimately put pay to any improvements in qualifying.
“Tomorrow the weather is going to be a real factor in how things play out,” Story said.
“It’s too soon to make any real predictions on how that plays. It’s going to be interesting, but let’s see how the weather plays out tomorrow.
“But man, a lot of fast cars here today and that’s going to make for a ripper weekend.
“The fact that Scott’s in the position he is in the championship means that everyone’s treating this like it is the great race, separate from the championship in many respects so I think the beneficiaries are going to be all the motor racing fans right around Australia who will be watching.”