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Feeney leads Percat in opening Bathurst practice

TRIPLE Eight has made a fast start to 2024 with Broc Feeney topping a dramatic first practice at the Thrifty Bathurst 500.

With uncertainty arguably an all-time high after an off-season full of change, the wait for answers was extended courtesy of an immediate red flag.

All eyes were on Erebus Motorsport as it looks to put behind its recent dramas and get its title defence underway, and the team was straight in the spotlight when Jack Le Brocq’s #9 TFH Camaro stopped on the very first run up to the Cutting.

An oil pressure issue was to blame, and all cars were forced to peel back into the pits at the end of their outlap.

That was session done for Le Brocq, putting him straight on the back foot.

He was not the only one, though, with Richie Stanaway’s full-time return to Supercars also off to a rough start.

Stanaway had been quick out of the blocks; he was fourth on the leaderboard when he crashed out, finding the concrete heading towards the Dipper.

That brought out another red flag with 37 minutes remaining in the hour-long session.

At that point, Feeney was leading a Triple Eight one-two, the benchmark set at 2:07.9551s – the move to hard tyres making for far slower lap times than seen last October at the 2023 Repco Bathurst 1000.

There was a lull once proceedings resumed, with Nick Percat the only key improver for quite some time, rising from 10th to second, closing Feeney’s advantage to 0.2584s.

Even still, there was plenty of hair-raising moments as drivers stretched the limits of the Dunlop hard compound.

Entering the closing stages, Tickford Racing’s Thomas Randle and Cam Waters were surprisingly just 20th and 22nd, and not even the use of new tyres helped much.

Randle got up to 13th but Waters slipped to 23rd by the end, more than two seconds off Feeney who stayed on top.

“The track is quite grippy from last weekend,” reported Triple Eight boss Jamie Whincup.

“There was a lot of running done at the 12 Hour, so it’s probably the grippiest we’ll have seen in a P1 session.

“A lot of drivers were reporting understeer, which makes sense for the track grip.”

Nick Percat made a strong start to life at Matt Stone Racing. Pic: Nathan Wong

Percat, Brown and Heimgartner stayed second through fourth, while Cameron Hill made it two Matt Stone Racing Camaros in the top five.

Stanaway was the lead Ford in sixth despite his early end to proceedings.

Erebus’ sole car standing, driven by Todd Hazelwood, wound up ninth.

Tickford team manager Matty Roberts explained minimal panic of Randle and Waters being off the early pace.

“We’ve got a new approach this year,” said Roberts.

“The guys’ focused on race pace. We’ll switch to quali trim for this afternoon’s Practice 2, but all in all, first practice, the cars are straight, both drivers are happy.

“We’ll get on with the program. We’re not too worried about the timesheets at the moment.

“Tom got a good lap in at the end there and Tom got held up on his quick lap.”

Second and final practice starts at 4:20pm AEDT this afternoon.

RESULTS: Practice 1, 2024 Thrifty Bathurst 500

188Broc Feeney Triple EightChevrolet2m07.9551s
210Nick PercatMSRChevrolet+0.2584s
387Will BrownTriple EightChevrolet+0.6151s
48Andre HeimgartnerBJRChevrolet+0.9370s
54Cameron Hill MSRChevrolet+1.0079s
626Richie StanawayGroveFord+1.0463s
720David ReynoldsTeam 18Chevrolet+1.0593s
819Matt PayneGroveFord+1.0827s
999Todd HazelwoodErebusChevrolet+1.1207s
1011Anton De PasqualeDJRFord+1.1422s
1131James Golding PremiAirChevrolet+1.1740s
1217Will DavisonDJRFord+1.4336s
13100Mark WinterbottomTeam 18Chevrolet+1.5030s
1455Thomas Randle TickfordFord+1.5284s
1512Jaxon Evans BJRChevrolet+1.5503s
1696Macauley JonesBJRChevrolet+1.5655s
1714Bryce FullwoodBJRChevrolet+1.7209s
1825Chaz MostertWAUFord+1.7447s
197James CourtneyBRTFord+1.8372s
203Aaron LoveBRTFord+1.8488s
212Ryan Wood WAUFord+1.9863s
2223Tim SladePremiAirChevrolet+2.0269s
236Cam WatersTickfordFord+2.2177s
249Jack Le BrocqErebusChevroletNTR
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