The 2017 Bathurst 1000 weekend began with a bang as a number of key cars found the wall or encountered some trouble in the first three practice sessions for the great race.
Right out of the box the Brad Jones Racing Commodores looked fast with Tim Slade setting the early pace with Nick Percat and Tim Blanchard in the repaired CoolDrive entry looking strong.
Unfortunately for the team, Slade wiped his #14 Freightliner Commodore along the wall at the esses, causing significant chassis damage with the potential to end his weekend and adding to the teams misery this season.
Both of the Kelly brothers ran into trouble early on in the session when a faulty oil pump led to the car spraying excess oil all over the circuit and putting both Altima’s into the garage for the majority of the session.
The session was once again interrupted when Bathurst rookie Alex Rullo found the fence at Forrest’s Elbow, plucking the right front suspension out of his #62 LDM Commodore.
This created a frantic, final 10 minutes where the remaining cars took to the track to set the early benchmark for the weekend.
Chaz Mostert was fastest in the #55 Supercheap Auto Ford Falcon followed by car #888 with Craig Lowdnes at the wheel and Todd Kelly in third.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team had a difficult start at a circuit they are usually so strong at with Jamie Whincup in fifth and Shane Van Gisbergen down in 20th.
The first of the allocated Co-driver sessions of the weekend allowed the secondary drivers to get some track time and become acclimatised with the mountain.
Once again, the session was incident packed with Ash Walsh running into the gravel at the chase on his evaluation laps after a horror accident at Phillip Island last weekend.
The BJR driver was eventually dragged out of the gravel and towed to the pits allowing the rest of the field to get back on track.
Unfortunately for the others, the red flag was soon flying when Richard Muscat driving car #34 clipped the inside wall at the Dipper, damaging the front suspension of the GRM Commodore.
Prodrive Racing Australia were once again quickest with Dean Canto in the #5 Falcon topping the time sheets comfortably ahead of team mate Steve Owen in second and Tony D’Alberto in third.
Third practice, and the last of the day, started very strongly for series leader Scott McLaughlin as he posted a time almost two seconds faster than anyone had managed in that session until that point.
Many of the teams opted to do long run practice which meant McLaughlin’s time remained untroubled until the very end of the session when David Reynolds in the #9 Erebus Commodore went .03 faster than the Kiwi.
Van Gisbergen’s miserable day came to an early end when he too clipped the inside wall at the Dipper except this time damaging the #97 Commodore badly in the process.
RBRHT team manager Mark Dutton believes the parts damaged in the crash were bolt on parts but would still reduce the track time for the team.
Simona De Silvestro too brought out the red flag when the #78 Nissan Altima stopped on circuit with an apparent electrical issue forcing the Swiss driver to stop the car at the end of the Conrod Straight.
Track action returns on Friday with practice and qualifying for the shootout taking place on another important day of the Bathurst 1000.
Article by Adam Ashmore (@GeorgeAshmore_)