DEWALT Racing’s Scott Pye and IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom were in the hunt on the opening day of track action at the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown, posting top five times in both practice sessions.

The team ran through a planned testing schedule including qualifying and race-distance simulations across both cars to expand their knowledge of the Dunlop Super Soft tyre which debuts in the championship this weekend.

The team rolled out of the transporter strongly, as Winterbottom posted the opening benchmark time of the weekend at a 1:06.3 on his second lap of Practice 1, and lead the opening session for more than half of the 40-minute duration.

Pye set out on a race-run on his first set of tyres, before a short qualifying simulation at the end of the session saw him jump to fourth fastest, only a hundredth of a second quicker than Winterbottom.

The team remained competitive in Practice 2, as Pye posted the second fastest time of the day at a 1:06.0 on his penultimate flying lap. The field was extremely tight late in the day, with Winterbottom only a tenth of a second away from Pye’s time, but finished the session eighth fastest.

Team 18 is back on track tomorrow at the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown for Qualifying at 12:05pm AEST/11:35am local, and Race 12 of the Repco Supercars Championship at 3:55pm AEST/3:25pm local.

RESULTS & QUOTES

Mark Winterbottom, #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore 

Practice 1: 5th, Practice 2: 8th

“We lost a little bit of our speed between session 1 and 2, I think the track gripped up a bit so we’ve got a bit of time to find,” said Mark Winterbottom.

“The field is so close. First in the session had a bit of a gap, but second-through-to-tenth was within a tenth of a second.

“The tyre isn’t doing what we thought it would. It was quick in a qualifying trim but not dropping off as we predicted.

“Qualifying will be key but we’ve got time to work on it overnight. I’m pumped to come back tomorrow and see what we’ve got.”

SCHEDULE – DARWIN TRIPLE CROWN – JUNE 18-20

ALL TIMES ACST, UTC +9:30

FRIDAY
Practice 1 – 11:25am (40 minutes)
Practice 2 – 1:20pm (30 minutes)

SATURDAY
Qualifying (Race 12) – 11:35am (three-part)
Race 12 – 3:25pm (38 laps)

SUNDAY
Qualifying (Race 13) – 9:15am (10 minutes)
Qualifying (Race 14) – 9:30am (10 minutes)
Race 13 – 11:55am (38 laps)
Race 14 – 3:25pm (38 laps)