Craig Lowndes topped Practice 3 at the Penrite Oil Sandown 500 to help the Red Bull Holden Racing Team finish a topsy-turvy Friday on a high.
Jamie Whincup beached the #888 after showing early pace in Practice 2, with the sister #97 entry taken to P1 in opening practice by Garth Tander.
Practice 3 – the second additional drivers’ session of the day – was delayed by over 40 minutes following a heavy accident in preceding Toyota 86 qualifying.
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Lowndes would finish the 30-minute session with a fastest lap of 1:07.835s, which was just 0.057s slower than the record time set by David Reynolds in Practice 2.
However, Lowndes was trailed by Tony D’Alberto in the #12 DJR Team Penske Mustang by a scant 0.060s, with Dale Wood (#15 Castrol Altima) also within a tenth of the #888’s session best.
Tander was the pacesetter through the first runs with a 1:07.953s, with D’Alberto moving to P2 during his second run.
Wood fired to the top with a 1:07.948s on his final run before Lowndes pipped him with a 1:07.916s.
D’Alberto would split the duo as Lowndes improved to a 1:07.835s, with Tander fourth ahead of Jack Perkins (#22 Walkinshaw Andretti United ZB Commodore), Ash Walsh (#14 Freightliner ZB Commodore), Will Brown (#99 Penrite Racing ZB Commodore and James Moffat (#55 Supercheap Auto Mustang).
In Scott McLaughlin’s series-leading #17 entry, Alex Premat was ninth with a 1:08.075s ahead of Thomas Randle (#5 The Bottle-O Mustang). Reynolds’ co-driver Luke Youlden was 14th.
Rain had affected Practice 1, and Lowndes thought the skies would again open in the afternoon – but was pleased to end the day on top.
“We got told a rain shower was coming, so we were all hustling at the start to get some laps in,” he said.
“We made the car better over that session, there’s no doubt about that, and that’s always what I’ve loved to do, develop a car.
“We went up on springs, down on springs, we played with shocks … we did everything. We got a bit of a balance we wanted, put a set of tyres on that Jamie had previously run.
“It took three laps to get the tyre pressures and the balance right, but we were hustling it.”
The all-in Practice 4 will commence at 10:40am AEDT on Saturday morning.
Full results here.