Tickford Racing’s overwhelming focus is now on race pace despite getting three of its four Mustangs into the Top 10 Shootout at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Lee Holdsworth provisionally qualified on pole in the Truck Assist Mustang while Cameron Waters, the pace-setter through practice in the Monster Energy car, will be fourth-last out in the one-lap dash.
Furthermore, James Courtney drove the Boost Mobile Mustang to ninth in Qualifying, while the Supercheap Auto Racing entry of Jack Le Brocq and James Moffat is locked into 15th on the grid.
Waters was quickest in two practice sessions and fastest to the second sector before pitting at the end of Practice 5, a hint at Tickford’s one-lap performance.
However, Team Principal Tim Edwards is remaining grounded about the Ford team’s headline pace.
“The pace has been there all weekend, so we expected to have most of our cars, if not all of them, in the shootout,” Edwards told Speedcafe.com after Qualifying.
“We felt that the speed was there in the car, but at the end of the day, the shootout now is more for bragging rights and for TV time than anything else.
“We all know that it doesn’t really have a material impact on the race; we’ve won it from last (in 2014), having not even qualified for the race.
“The next step is tomorrow morning (Saturday) working on the race set-up, and for the three that are in the shootout, do some quali sims and have a bit of fun late tomorrow afternoon, but our eyes are firmly on Sunday, not getting caught up too much in qualifying pace of the car.”
Edwards affirmed that race set-up has been a key part of Tickford’s programme so far, an endeavour helped by its experienced co-driver roster.
James Moffat was fastest in the first co-driver session in Le Brocq’s car, and Will Davison topped the second in Waters’ Mustang, as Michael Caruso went fifth-fastest in Holdsworth’s.
“We’re fortunate that, certainly in three of our cars, we’ve got very experienced co-drivers, so when they’re in the car, it’s totally focused on race set-up,” explained Edwards.
“When you look at ‘Caruse’, Moffat, and Will, they’ve probably got 40 Bathursts (combined).
“We’re fortunate that when they’re in the car, they’re exclusively working on race set-up, and then when the regulars are in the car, they’re working on a mix of race and qualifying.
“You’d probably say 70 to 80 percent of our practice so far has all been focused on race, not qualifying.”
Le Brocq did not have a chance to improve at the end of Qualifying after being hamstrung by gremlins during the session.
They were cleared in time for the final ‘happy hour’ phase, but that run came to nought due to rain.
The threat of heavier falls has seen Sunday’s race start shifted forward by 30 minutes, but Edwards is confident that the Tickford Mustangs will be quick in the wet.
“We’ll just deal with what happens,” he remarked.
“Our cars have generally been quick in the wet so we’re not sitting here going, ‘My God, I hope it’s dry because our car’s terrible in the wet.’
“We’ve generally had good wet weather speed. It’ll be what it’ll be, so we’re not stressing about it one way or the other.
“We’ll just change the tyres and put ones with grooves on or ones that are slicks, depending on what the weather’s doing.”
Practice 6, for co-drivers only, gets underway at 09:10 local time/AEDT.