Mark Skaife has rolled out his latest HRT car with great results today, topping the times on the opening day of practice for the Betta Electrical Sandown 500.

Skaife's quickest lap late in the day was just five hundredths quicker than John Bowe in an OzEmail Falcon, and was backed up with the sixth fastest time by co-driver Todd Kelly.

"It is a great debut for the new car, to wheel a new car out of the truck and go that well is great," Skaife said. "We made a great deal of progress that session, it is responding well to changes, and we were on old tyres for the whole of it.

"I'd say no-one was cruising around with their arm on the window, so I think it is looking good."

John Bowe was a little more circumspect, urging people to remember that it is only Friday.

"It is only Friday, so it doesn't really matter, but it is good so far," Bowe said, happy that the team chose to run his car here rather than Brad Jones normal #21. "We tested both cars at Winton and we both liked the black one better, so we decided to run it."

Paul Radisich made a late charge into fourth spot, setting his quickest time after the chequered flag closed the session. Radisich said his team was making a good fist of finding a balance between firmness for grip and softness to ride the bumps.

"You try to soften up the car a little to deal with the bumps, but it is all about the handling compromise with firmness for grip. It is a bumpy track," he said.

Co-driver Rickard Rydell from Sweden said he is coming to grips with the Falcon, which he said is very different from the Volvo he races in Europe.

"The biggest difference is in the cars, there is a lot of power and no grip, it is not really what I am used to," he said. "It is the gearchange and braking I need to work on."

The resurgent Paul Morris was fourth, and confident he and John Faulkner can continue his recent form and challenge for the race win on Sunday.

"This new car is really good, it responds to changes," Morris said. "We've had two or three test days with it, but we get the biggest gains at the circuits. There's no point in us being conservative at this point in time, the Championship is not part of the equation so we are just out for the win."

Fifth fastest was Marcos Ambrose in the #4 Caltex Havoline Pirtek Falcon he is sharing with Championship leader Marcos Ambrose.

"We have slightly different driving styles and we are just trying to find a compromise," Ambrose said. "We look to making the car comfortable first, and then we go for speed."

Ingall was more confident with the speed of his new car, predicting that once qualifying starts he and Ambrose will be the pace setters. "We are pretty comfortable with the car, we haven't chased a time yet, we haven't even broken into a sweat. Just wait for qualifying!"

The Sandown 500 is the first of the two driver endurance races for the season, and is returning to the calendar after a four year absence. Tomorrow's action sees qualifying and a Top 10 Shootout.

 

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