Team 18 hit the track for the first of four days of on-track action at the Australian Grand Prix, which saw IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom and Hino Racing’s Scott Pye experience two action-packed qualifying sessions for the Beaurepaires Melbourne 400.

The team showed strong pace during Practice 1 and 2 on the hard tyre. The first session was affected by a lengthy red flag period to repair the barriers after a crash at Turn 5.

Pye was seventh fastest in the second session, while Winterbottom brushed the wall at Turn 2 on his flyer and aborted the lap to finish 20th in that session.

The first of two ten-minute qualifying sessions was also affected by a red flag caused by a similar incident at Turn 5. Winterbottom’s first flying lap put him in 11th, while Pye aborted his lap early after a mistake at Turn 1. Pye posted the quickest time in the first sector of his second lap before the red flag was called which meant he couldn’t post a representative qualifying time and will start 24th for Race 6.

Winterbottom posted the 13th best time in the second session and will be looking for more pace on the soft tyre before tomorrow’s races. Pye’s first lap put him sixth fastest before he came across a car stranded across the track exiting Turn 5 on his second lap and had to swerve hard to avoid the car as it rejoined the circuit and avoided a potential clash. Unfortunately he couldn’t improve on his final lap having used the peak of the tyres until that stage and qualified 11th for Race 7.

Friday’s schedule sees two more qualifying sessions which will use the hard tyre compound, before the first of four 20-lap races this weekend at 2:20pm.

RESULTS & QUOTES

Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore

Practice 1: P11, 1:48.17
Practice 2: P20, 1:46.81
Qualifying (Race 6): P11, 1:46.55
Qualifying (Race 7:) P13, 1:45.75

“Not a bad day but not a fantastic day, just in the mid pack.

“On the hard tyre we were good in practice but on the soft tyre we were between 10th to 14th on pace and that’s where we were in qualifying.

“Tomorrow we have two more cracks on the hard tyre in qualifying which I think is suiting my car a bit better, so I’m excited for that.

“It’s cool to be back at the grand prix, the new track layout is pretty cool. I was sceptical of it this morning after the first run but after quail it’s really cool, so it’s cool to see the grand prix back.”

Scott Pye, driver #20 Hino Holden ZB Commodore

Practice 1: P15, 1:48.60
Practice 2: P7, 1:45.57
Qualifying (Race 6): P24, 1:57.93
Qualifying (Race 7:) P12, 1:45.75

“Overall a really unlucky day, I think we’ve got great car speed.

“In that first qualifying session I made a mistake and paid a huge price for it. On the first lap I made a mistake at Turn 1 and aborted the lap and decided to go for the second lap. Unfortunately on the second lap we were P1 up until the second sector and then there was a red flag, so we could have been well in the top ten there but didn’t get to put the lap in so I’m down the back.

“Our second qualifying was looking much better, we were P6 on the first run on the tyres, second set we were up quite a lot and unfortunately a car spun and rejoined right in front of me so I had to bail out of that lap, and on the second lap we were just too far into the tyre and didn’t improve which was disappointing.

“I think today we should have had two very comfortable top ten qualifying positions but nonetheless it’s good. We’ve been competitive at all three tracks we have been to so far, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and moving forward in the races.”