Lee-thal lap: Holdsworth smashes track record
FORD ace Lee Holdsworth is dreaming of a drought-breaking podium after smashing the lap record to upstage the championship pacesetters in Supercars practice at Pukekohe on Friday.
As series leader Scott McLaughlin was forced to overcome engine issues at the start of the session that ate into his track time, Holdsworth set the pace with the fastest Supercars lap ever (1:01.6281) around the New Zealand circuit.
The Tickford Racing pilot topped the second practice session ahead of Red Bull Holden Racing Team's Shane van Gisbergen and fellow Ford driver Will Davison, who was fastest in opening practice.
Live stream the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship on KAYO SPORTS. Every practice, qualifying & race live & anytime in HD. Get your 14 day free trial >
McLaughlin finished in seventh place after being forced to sit out the first 15 minutes of the practice session as the DJR Team Penske crew worked to fix an engine problem.
It has been more than five years since Holdsworth finished on the podium in a Supercars race - his last success coming with a victory at Winton in 2014. His best result in 2019 was fifth - also at Winton.
But after his Mustang's pace in practice, Holdsworth was hopeful of a breakthrough at the "super quick" track this weekend.
"It was a super quick track today, the new surface was just mega fun to drive on and we just kept pushing harder and harder," Holdsworth said. "Look at the times, they are just blitzing last year's times … so it is going to be super tight this weekend.
"But my car was really hooked up. We made some good changes throughout the day and obviously I want to have a really strong round - I'm still searching for that podium this year."
McLaughlin admitted he had car handling issues to overcome in his bid for a piece of Supercars history at the Auckland Supersprint this weekend.
The defending champion, who needs just one more win to eclipse Craig Lowndes' record of 16 wins in a single season, said he had found the car challenging when he was finally able to join the session.
"We obviously didn't get as many laps then as we wanted," McLaughlin said.
"But the boys were all over it and at least we got back out and were able to do some laps.
"Doing those two (flying) laps, it was like 'Far out', I was holding on. It's hard work around here, but when you haven't had any laps as well it's even harder."
Holden has been granted aerodynamic changes to its car ahead of the Pukekohe round and van Gisbergen said Triple Eight was still trying to come to grips with the new package.
"It's obviously different, we are just trying to learn it (the new aero)," said van Gisbergen, the leading Holden driver in the drivers' championship (fourth).
"We are too slow down the straight."
Wet conditions are expected for Saturday's opening 200km race.
"It's a completely different track … the way the surface is now," van Gisbergen said.
"Hopefully it's not too wet because it will be pretty slippery for everyone, but you've got to try to adapt to it."
Mostert guns for champ
Chaz Mostert is targeting his best-ever finish in the Supercars championship, but says he is sick of chasing the tail of fellow Ford star Scott McLaughlin.
After securing four straight podium finishes in the last two rounds at Ipswich and The Bend, Mostert has moved up from fourth to second in the championship standings behind the rampaging McLaughlin.
The off-contract Tickford Racing star, who continues to be the subject of speculation about his driving future, said the defending champion had been doing it "too easy".
"Every time you go to a race weekend and get a trophy, it's fantastic," Mostert said.
"But there has been one guy doing it a little too easy out there and everyone wants to beat him so there is still plenty of work to do and plenty of motivation to try and beat him.
"When you are coming second or third it's always about aiming a little bit higher. We would love to try and steal a first place off the other Ford team that is doing a fantastic job at the moment."
Mostert has claimed just one race win this season - at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park, despite starting from pole three times. He trails McLaughlin by a massive 573 points.
But the Bathurst winner did not think anyone could reel in McLaughlin's lead this season, even with the big points races ahead in the season of endurance.
"I think the damage has been done," said Mostert, whose best finish in the Supercars championship was fifth in 2017.
"He would have to have a horror end of the year. I don't see it happening. You want to beat people at their best and he has showed his best."
Mostert has been linked to a move to Walkinshaw Andretti United next season, but insisted he did not yet have any plans locked in.
"I'm spending a bit of time to work through some things," the 27-year-old said.
"It's got a little bit long out there and no doubt everyone is annoyed about it, but it is what it is and we will keep working hard in the background and we'll see what we come up with … nothing is locked in at this stage."
Mostert finished 12th in practice on Friday, at one point getting out of the car briefly to stretch a sore back as his Mustang was undergoing set-up changes.
"There is a couple of little things going on, but we will sort it out," Mostert said. "Pretty average session for us … some of our team cars are at the pointy end so we will look at them."