Runaway Supercars series leader Scott McLaughlin has sounded an ominous warning, setting a new lap record on an incident-packed opening day of practice for the Bathurst 1000.
Ford gun McLaughlin made it clear he was hungry to claim a maiden Bathurst title, clocking a blistering two minutes, 03.77 seconds on Thursday.
It was 0.06 of a second faster than McLaughlin’s old mark set in 2017.
Defending series champion McLaughlin topped the time sheets in the third and final practice session of the day ahead of Holden’s four-time Bathurst winner Jamie Whincup and Ford young gun Cam Waters.
McLaughlin has adopted a “win it or bin it” approach at Mount Panorama in a bid to break his Bathurst duck after jumping to a 598-point championship lead ahead of the Great Race.
“I had a lot of fun. Hopefully tomorrow the (forecast) rain stays away and we can have another crack,” McLaughlin said of his record.
But the New Zealander will know it only takes one mistake to come undone on the mountain – especially after the notorious track claimed more scalps on Thursday.
The field for the third one hour practice session was missing the Holdens of former Bathurst winner David Reynolds and wildcard entry Brodie Kostecki which remained in the garage after practice crashes.
Reynolds’ co-driver Luke Youlden was monitored by medical staff for concussion after he slammed into the wall at Reid Park early in the second practice session.
Their Penrite Racing team are now working furiously to have the Commodore ready for the opening qualifying session late on Friday afternoon.
“We will put it together and have a crack tomorrow,” Reynolds said.
Remarkably Kostecki’s cousin and teammate Jake Kostecki also shunted the wall at Reid Park almost at the same spot as Youlden late in the second session that was held for co-drivers only.
Holden young gun Macauley Jones was officially Mount Panorama’s first scalp on Thursday, hitting the concrete wall at The Cutting so hard it loosened the roof in the opening session.
Jones emerged unscathed but his team couldn’t put the Commodore back together again in time for his co-driver Dean Canto to contest the second session, only to emerge with a patched up Holden in third practice.
Whincup’s co-driver, seven-time Bathurst champion Craig Lowndes, earlier made an encouraging return to the track after retiring from full-time driving last year, clocking the eighth fastest time in the second one hour session.
“It was nice to get back out there. It was not perfect but I was getting back into the swing of things,” Lowndes said.
Two more practice sessions will be held on Friday before qualifying starts at 1600 AEDT.
Photo credit: Benchill [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]