V8 Supercars points leader Mark Winterbottom topped today’s 20-minute pre-qualifying practice session for the Sydney 500.
Winterbottom, who can conceivably wrap up a maiden title today, led the way in the very early part of the session, before being shuffled back as David Reynolds, Shane van Gisbergen, and Scott Pye all improved.
But he pulled out a quick time on a qualifying simulation a little over five minutes from the end, going fastest with a 1m27.711s.
“It’s a lot hotter [today], so effectively you lose grip. But then the guys did a good job overnight and gave me grip,” he said.
“The car was a lot better. It was good to get the nerves out of the way. Today is a big day.”
Rick Kelly pulled out a late lap to go second fastest, winding up just under two-tenths behind Winterbottom.
“It certainly is towards the top, which is really good,” he said.
“We saved a better set of tyres for today. I went home last night a little bit down on confidence because we weren’t right up there, but today we certainly are. It puts us in a good position for qualifying.”
Shane van Gisbergen, who dominated all three practice sessions yesterday, was still on form this morning. Mid-way through the session he was actually fastest, but failed to improve quite enough during the happy hour at the end of the session, settling for P3 with a 1m27.896s.
Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup were fourth and fifth, the only other two drivers to sneak under the 1m28s mark.
Meanwhile, it was another tough session for Winterbottom’s sole remaining title rival Craig Lowndes. The Triple Eight driver was just 15th fastest, almost a second off the pace.