McLaughlin tops eventful and tricky opening Practice at Pukekohe

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Scott McLaughlin has topped the opening Practice session for the ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe with a blisteringly quick lap to lead a Shell V-Power Racing 1-2.

The Kiwi held the fastest time for most the session, pipping Mark Winterbottom in the early stages with a 1:03.080, before lowering the benchmark in the final 5-minutes with a 1:02.715 on a fresh set of tyres.

“It might rain this afternoon, so it was nice to get a feel before qualifying tomorrow if it is dry,” said McLaughlin.

“The car feels nice. [I had] a couple of little offs, but just trying to find the limit.

“The track is quite green, there’s not much grip out there at moment. Trying to brake where you did last year isn’t working.

“It’s okay, as long as we’re fastest that’s the main thing.”

Fabian Coulthard completed the DJR Team Penske lockout in second, only 0.167s off McLaughlin’s lap, while Jamie Whincup was the first of the Holdens in third on a 1:02.940.

A number of drivers experienced difficulties getting up to speed on the New Zealand venue, with off track moments galore, including a couple for the Shell V-Power Fords as both McLaughlin and Coulthard looped it at Turn 8.

The Turn 5-6 chicane was also a point of drama, with cars taking to the escape road as well as the grass in a windy and tricky session.

Both of the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Commodores had wild moments during the 40-minute hit out, with new recruit Jack Perkins running wide on the exit of Turn 11 and sliding through the grass, before swiping the wall with the left hand side of his car.

LDM’s sister car of Aaren Russell bowled a wide through Turn 1, losing control and hurtling towards the outside gravel trap before getting beached and bringing out the red flag in the final 11-minutes.

When the session resumed after Russell’s car had been retrieved, the timing screens began to light up as the lap times started to tumble across the board.

Tim Slade finished fourth fastest in his Brad Jones Racing Commodore, ahead of David Reynolds who sat in second in the closing stages, before being knocked to fifth as other drivers around him improved.

James Courtney set the sixth fastest time, with James Moffat for Gary Rogers Motorsport in seventh and Lee Holdsworth eighth.

Craig Lowndes and Jason Bright rounded out the top ten for Caltex Racing and Mega Racing respectively, with a struggling Chaz Mostert getting bumped out of the ten in the final minutes.

Shane van Gisbergen in the #97 Red Bull Holden struggled for outright pace, which left him in 19th position after multiple trips through the Turn 5 escape road.

The field will return for a final practice session at 15:10 local time.