Black Friday practice for the Sandown 500 has been tinged with gold for the Erebus Motorsport V8 team, with the trio of Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG racecars all finishing in the top three at some stage throughout the day.
Practice started well for Tim Slade in the #47 Heavy Haulage Australia E63, topping the first hitout for endurance season 2013.
Holdsworth ended first practice fourth quickest and Maro Engel spent the session becoming accustomed to the outer Melbourne venue.
In practice two - limited to co-drivers - Steven Johnson sat atop the order in the #9 SP Tools Racing entry for much of the 40 minutes. He ended third quickest in what was the first time all 28 enduro cup co-drivers have been seen on track together this year.
Andrew Thompson proved the speed aboard the striking blue Megatrucker was no fluke, ending fourth fastest, with Craig Baird bringing the #4 IRWIN Tools car home in eighth.
The final practice session of the day saw all three cars regularly at the top of the order. The three Erebus Motorsport E63 AMG’s have been trialling different setups ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session and twin 20-lap qualifying races.
Lee Holdsworth drew cheers from the IRWIN Racing boys by laying down the fastest time of anyone throughout the day, only to see that eclipsed by Craig Lowndes - who was one of the final cars to cross the line.
Slade ended the session in 14th after battling traffic in his best tyre run and Engel improved his times by 1.5 seconds from first practice, ending 20th.
All in all, it has been a positive day for the Erebus Motorsport V8 squad, the team matching the fastest speeds of most cars down the long straights.
Lee Holdsworth - #4 IRWIN Racing E63 AMG: “Today our second and third sector was quite strong, a tailwind was behind us heading into turn one, which delivered some understeer - but everyone would have been in the same boat.
“The pace isn’t surprising following our test day last week. Our weakest point was green tyre running, which we worked solidly on at the test day and it worked for us today. It was pleasing to get some pace on green tyres, but we have to capitalise on that tomorrow in qualifying.”
Craig Baird - #4 IRWIN Racing E63 AMG: “The car felt good from the start of my session, I made a few tweaks and was able to hand it over to Lee for the final session.
“We had a plan and stuck to our guns throughout the day and weren’t too worried about anyone else.
“It takes a little while to get into the zone between running a GT-style car and a V8 Supercar - as they are really different vehicles to drive, but we’re feeling very comfortable with where we are right now.”
Tim Slade - #47 Heavy Haulage Australia Racing E63 AMG: “The Heavy Haulage Australia rig was speedy all day, between Wes (McDougall - engineer), Thommo (Andrew Thompson) and myself, we feel incredibly positive right now.
“When we had the better tyres on in the final session there, we couldn’t get a clear lap, so the third practice isn’t a true indication of the pace of how our day has gone.
“Thommo did an awesome job in his session and we’re all feeling really good about where we sit currently.
“Following our test day last week, we’ve tried a couple of new things and it is quite clear that we’re on the right track.”
Andrew Thompson - #47 Heavy Haulage Australia Racing E63 AMG: “We’ve had a really good start to the weekend, the car rolled out of the truck really well.
“Tim was really quick right away, which made my life easier. With the car being so good, I was able to get in and get up to speed without any trouble. Every time we made some changes the car got better.
"From my perspective, I was happy to focus on the job that I’ve been given. I have got some work to do to get the rust out of my system, but with every change the car went forward.
“Without doubt, the Heavy Haulage Australia E63 is definitely very quick and it is pointing towards a good weekend.”
Maro Engel - #9 SP Tools Racing E63 AMG: “It’s definitely a cool track to drive, my focus today was to learn the track. I’ve been working closely with Chris (Stuckey - Engineer) and Steve (Johnson) on where we are at and getting everything right for the rest of the weekend.
“The car was very competitive on the older tyre, if we get the setup right we can be right in there.
“There’s definitely more pace to come - Steve has given some good feedback, we’ll look through the data tonight and turn out even better tomorrow.”
Steven Johnson - #9 SP Tools Racing E63 AMG: “All three cars have shown some good speed right throughout. We’ve all been on a different program which gives us some extra scope on setup when we sit down for a discussion tonight.
“The track has evolved throughout the day which has led to a changing balance on the car, we have to be sure that we make the right choices in setup and don’t take ourselves outside that window.
“Maro is getting more comfortable with each lap he does here.
“All in all, I’d have to say it has been a good day for the team right across the board.”