New Zealand has taken first blood in the Trans-Tasman battle at the ITM 500 Auckland today, with Kiwi young gun Scott McLaughlin the fastest in today’s practice.
The Volvo driver upstaged V8 Supercars Championship leader Mark Winterbottom and legend Craig Lowndes on his home turf at Pukekohe Park Raceway.
“Any time you can get a podium or a win at home is massive, and I think we have a good enough car to do that this weekend,” McLaughlin said
“These guys are battling for a championship, and they’re going to be pressing hard as well, we just have to push on, mind our own business and we’ll be right.”
Having gone six-tenths under his existing race lap record today, McLaughlin is excited to be getting soft tyres tomorrow and is confident of a strong showing in front of his home crowd.
“The soft tyre will be even faster,” McLaughlin promised.
Championship leader Mark Winterbottom goes into the weekend looking to shore up his Championship hopes after a shaky weekend on the Gold Coast.
“You’ve just got to race. You don’t change your approach, you get in a position because of what has worked for the first eleven rounds, and you don’t just change your position.
“Obviously, if you can beat him and he’s (Lowndes) third, we’re going pretty good.”
Lowndes had a few wild off track excursions early in the day, before recovering to finish the day third. He’s looking to continue his run of momentum that has seen him close the gap to Winterbottom over the last two races.
“You’ve just got to focus on your own job,” said Lowndes on chasing down Winterbottom.
“If you win races it takes care of itself. We’ve had a pretty good run so far, but we know Mark will be quick here.”
“You’ve just got to do as good as what the car can produce and what I can drive it and see what happens.”
The Kiwis were all in the top half of the field in practice today, with Shane van Gisbergen seventh fastest, Fabian Coulthard 10th quickest and Andre Heimgartner pushing the super Black Racing Ford to 12th fastest.
The ITM 500 continues tomorrow with final practice in the morning followed by two qualifying sessions and two races in the afternoon.