Scott McLaughlin takes early Supercars advantage, tops Friday practice
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Day one of the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 has been run and won, with Scott McLaughlin claiming a narrow advantage on the time-sheets by topping the last of the day's practice tests.
The Kiwi managed to bounce back from an indifferent performance in the first session where he finished up 15th while key championship rival Shane van Gisbergen ended up second.
Much of the improvement between the two practice runs came down to a raft of mechanical changes underneath McLaughlin's Shell Falcon during the break in the middle.
"Overall we've had a really good day. Everything feels alright," said McLaughlin.
"I think the time we did, we found a combination we really liked. Then we went away from that and tried a few different things, then we came back.
"The race is going to be a long race, but track position is key and that's what we're working on."
Click here to read the run down of the McLaughlin versus van Gisbergen championship scenario
Having done 17 laps in the second session total, McLaughlin's 1:10.475 came in one of his first laps. It had been expected that he and a bunch of other drivers — having bolted on green tyres late — would lower that marker in the final minutes, but instead there were very few changes.
It's thought that that was because of a potential leak from Rick Kelly's Nissan Altima. Both Kelly and teammate Simona De Silvestro encountered mechanical problems.
Outside of the championship battle, Lee Holdsworth was on top of opening practice. He then complimented that pace with 11th in practice two, on a weekend where he will be hoping to sign with another team for next season.
McLaughlin's nearest rival in practice two results was van Gisbergen's teammate Jamie Whincup — 0.0870 away, ahead of Cameron Waters, McLaughlin's teammate Fabian Coulthard, James Courtney, and Nick Percat.
Van Gisbergen ended up seventh, three tenths off the end-of-day pace. Andre Heimgartner and Richie Stanaway completed the Kiwi contingent in 14th and 24th respectively.
Elsewhere, in the Dunlop Super2 Development Series, Chris Pither ended the day on top of practice proceedings. Like McLaughlin and van Gisbergen, he too is hoping to seal a championship title this weekend.