Motorsport: SVG tops practice time as championship beckons

By Dale Budge

Shane Van Gisbergen duringthe Supercars Gold Coast 600. Photo / Getty Images
Shane Van Gisbergen duringthe Supercars Gold Coast 600. Photo / Getty Images

Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has posted the fastest time in practice ahead of the final round of the Supercars championship on the streets of Sydney.

The Red Bull Racing star set a time of 1 minute 27.07s, which was .0211s quicker than Tim Slade. Jamie Whincup was third fastest in the second Red Bull Holden.

Fellow Kiwi Scott McLaughlin was sixth fastest in practice two after topping the times in the first session earlier on Friday.

With a 191 championship point lead the New Zealander needs a top five finish or to finish within five places of Whincup in Saturday's race to secure his maiden title.

He has won the Bathurst 12 Hour title and the European GT championship this year and is all but certain of completing the trifecta this weekend barring a disaster.

Incredibly van Gisbergen actually made a mistake, locking his tyres late, during his flying lap, which would have cost him a little time. It still proved to be fast enough for top spot and was fastest time ever recorded in practice in the eight-year history of the event.

Qualifying will take place at 2.15pm NZT Saturday and he would go a long way to winning the title if he can qualify in front of teammate Whincup.

Super Black Racing will have some work to do overnight after Kiwi Chris Pither jumped over a curb and crashed into a wall, prompting a red flag. He wasn't able to get going again and the team, in what will likely be their final ever round in Supercars, will have a busy night.

"I struggled with the balance - we have been for the last few rounds," Pither said. "I find it quite nervous and unpredictable to drive, particularly off the bumps.

"It was different that time than it had been the previous lap for whatever reason."

The only Kiwi outfit in the championship is without a Racing Entitlements Contract next season and is unlikely to find one, which would bring an end to their two-year run in the sport.

It was confirmed on Friday that Tim Blanchard has purchased the REC that had previously been owned by Super Black Racing and will use it under the Brad Jones Racing stable next year.

"I have nothing locked it at the moment, which is really disappointing," Pither said of 2017.

"Looking back on the year I am pretty happy to be honest.

"Looking to the future I would love to be in car for the next year or two - it is a tough category and you really need the seat time to build the confidence and the consistency will come with that.

"I really hope I can get out there in the next year or two and fully reach my potential."

Nissan driver Michael Caruso did the same thing as Pither at the same corner and brought out a second red flag moments after the re-start. It was also the corner that caught out veteran driver Craig Lowndes in the first practice session, which saw him make a delayed start to the second session as his team worked on the damage.

This weekend is final time the Supercars will run around the Sydney Olympic complex with the series finale moving to Newcastle from 2017.

- NZ Herald

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