David Reynolds made a flying start to the weekend in New Zealand, dominating the first practice session at Pukekohe.
The first half of the 30-minute session saw very little running; earlier rain left the track reasonably wet, and with NZ customs restricting the import of used tyres, which means teams only have four sets of wets for the whole weekend, most crews opted for a quick installation on treaded tyres before parking up to save rubber.
The two Volvos were the first to venture out on slicks when the track started to dry midway through, before times really started to tumble after the 10 minute mark when the rest of the field headed out.
It was initially the Red Bull Racing Australia cars that set the pace, Jamie Whincup fastest with a 1m03.158s, and local hero Shane van Gisbergen right on his tail.
But, with 90 seconds to go, Erebus driver Reynolds blew the field away, first with a 1m03.026s before improving to a 1m02.739s on his next lap.
It was enough to leave Reynolds three tenths clear of the rest of the field.
“That’s a pretty good time for, like, your first flying lap of the weekend,” said Reynolds. “The car has got heaps of grip, the track was obviously in good condition. We’ve still got some areas to improve, but I’m really happy. I love this track, I like any track you’ve got to bring your kahunas to go fast.”
Van Gisbergen slotted into second thanks to a 1m03.043s with 30 seconds to go, while Whincup ended up third after only improving to a 1m03.110s on his final lap.
Fabian Coulthard was the second best Kiwi in the field with the fourth quickest time in the DJR Team Penske Ford, ahead of Mark Winterbottom (Prodrive Ford) and Rick Kelly (Nissan).
There were a couple of hairy moments, the worst being Todd Kelly’s trip into the wall just six minutes in. The Nissan driver was caught out by the wet track at Turn 3, making light contact with the wall on the exit. The incident sparked a brief stoppage, although Kelly was able to get back out and finish up 19th fastest.
Craig Lowndes also had a scary trip over the kerbs at the Turn 2/3 complex, having to take evasive action to miss Triple Eight stablemate van Gisbergen, who was exiting the pits. Lowndes ended up with the 14th best time.
One of the surprises of the session was Scott McLaughlin, who wound up way down in 20th.
“The car is okay, we need a little bit more turn,” said the Kiwi. “But I feel like we just didn’t quite put the lap together [or] we would have been there or thereabouts.”