Supercars leader sets fastest time in practice
MOTORSPORT: Shane van Gisbergen has laid down a marker as he bids for his first Supercars championship.
The New Zealander, aiming to become the first V8 champion from his country since Dick Richards in 1991, set the the fastest time in practice in Sydney ahead of the final round on Saturday and Sunday.
The Red Bull Racing star set a time of 1min 27.07sec, which was .0211sec quicker than Tim Slade. Jamie Whincup was third fastest in the second Red Bull Holden.
Fellow Kiwi Scott McLaughlin was sixth fastest in the second practice round after topping the times in the first session.
With a 191-point lead in the championship, van Gisbergen needs a top-five finish or to finish within five places of Whincup in Saturday's race to secure his maiden title.
He has won the Bathurst 12 Hour title and the European GT Championship this year and is all but certain of completing the trifecta this weekend barring a disaster.
Incredibly, van Gisbergen actually made a mistake during his flying lap, locking his tyres, which would have cost him a little time.
It still proved to be fast enough for top spot and was the fastest time ever recorded in practice in the eight-year history of the event.
The session was interrupted by red flag interventions, with turn eight catching out a number of drivers.
Super Black Racing's Chris Pither was out of the session in the first six minutes after crashing into the wall, with his Falcon having to be recovered.
Minutes after the restart Michael Caruso's Nissan was in at the same place, with damage that looked worse than Pither's.
Erebus driver Shae Davies was another victim after Craig Lowndes rubbed the wall there in the day's first session.
Slade shot up the timesheets in the Freightliner Commodore and split the two title contenders.
Volvo driver McLaughlin had set the fastest practice in the first session, with Whincup pipping van Gisbergen to second spot.
This is the first time Dunlop has brought its soft tyre to Homebush, with van Gisbergen saying it was a little slippery at first.
"It's so much fun on the soft tyre around here, but it's very clean,” he said.
"The rubber will go down and we'll get quicker and quicker. The first session, the car was quite nice; just got to chase the track now.
"It wasn't very nice at the start; it was quick but not nice to drive. Now it's comfortable, we just need to make it quicker.”