In a dramatic conclusion to Friday's practice for this weekend's Falken Tasmania Challenge, Kiwi Greg Murphy emerged quickest of the thirty V8 Supercar contestants.
The final minutes were building to a climax when an incident at the notorious Symmons Plains hairpin compelled officials to red flag the session to a premature halt.
Murphy's Super Gas VE Commodore had however been near the top of the timing charts throughout and vaulted past fellow Holden driver Lee Holdsworth (Valvoline GRM) immediately prior to the session closing accident that saw Toll-Holden Racing Team driver Will Davison sustain damage to the right hand side of his car.
Many drivers exceeded the limits of braking adhesion into the tricky hairpin during practice, which resulted in no less than six interventions to remove stranded vehicles.
The final driver to become embedded in the gravel was Ford Performance Racing's Steven Richards whilst attempting to improve upon his eighth fastest time for the day. With yellow caution flags signalling rivals of the FG Falcon's excursion, a rapidly slowing Michael Patrizi caught reigning champion Jamie Whincup by surprise at his sudden loss of speed.
Unable to overtake whilst under the yellow flags, Whincup's Team VodaFone Falcon braked hard enough to cause the closely following Davison to jink to the right in avoidance. Taking the option of hitting the right hand side of his car along the concrete wall rather than ramming into the rear of his former flat mate, Davison struck the wall with sufficient force to smash his right front (parallel A-arm) suspension and rear differential.
As officials mopped up the accident under the subsequent red flag, Murphy finished marginally ahead of Holdsworth with Richards' FPR teammate Mark Winterbottom third fastest.
After struggling to perform to expectations at the last round at his team's test track at Winton, Murphy was both relieved and happy to show increased pace.
“We're back to where we were at Adelaide and Hamilton,” enthused Murphy. “We were good straight out of the box and in the top three for most of the time. We haven't had the luxury of testing since Winton but the team went through the car with a fine tooth comb and found a number of issues.”