ONE practice session is all it took for the first puncture to hit the WD-40 Phillip Island 500.
Scott McLaughlin’s right front tyre went flat halfway down the front straight just past the halfway point of the 40-minute session, forcing him to limp the No. 17 Shell Falcon around the whole circuit to get back to pit lane.
Dunlop had warned teams prior to heading to Phillip Island that teams using aggressive setups would run the risk of puncturing tyres, despite reverting to an older shape of tyre for the 2018 season in the wake of the blowout-blighted event 12 months ago.
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‘THEY KNOW THE RISK’: Why blowouts again threaten Phillip Island
“We were doing a race run and you want to find out where things are,” DJR Team Penske’s Ryan Story told FOX SPORTS. “It wasn’t exactly the best set of tyres that we brought with us, either.
“We know where that limit is now and we learnt a little bit there.”
Luckily the flailing rubber caused minimal damage, McLaughlin able to return to the track and set the second fastest time of the session.
Fastest of all was James Courtney, using a new set of tyres to head McLaughlin by 0.030 of a second, with Shane van Gisbergen, Craig Lowndes and Cam Waters rounding out the top five.
The result is another indicator that Walkinshaw Andretti United’s early season resurgence will be consistent theme throughout the season, Courtney hailing the improved aero stability of his car with the new ZB Commodore bodywork.
“We rolled out this morning and straight away, first run, first lap we went straight to the top,” Courtney said.
“I’m pumped. With that stability and consistency in the corner, it gives you a much better idea of the grip level and you can use all the car.
“It’s a nice feeling to head out each weekend and have a competitive package.”
Cool, cloudy conditions greeted the field for the opening day of practice, fog rolling in over the circuit but, for the most part, lifting before the Supercars hit the track.
McLaughlin’s puncture was the only significant incident of the session, although several cars ran off into the gravel at Southern Loop, including Tickford teammates Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert, along with Erebus rookie Anton De Pasquale.
The cars head out on track for the final 40-minute session of the day at 2:35pm AEST.