Returning to the scene of perhaps his greatest racing triumph yet, Cooper Murray has continued to lead the Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia field on the streets of Townsville.
After dominating the 2019 event in the North Queensland city, Murray picked up where he left off today in practice to top a competitive field across a pair of 25-minute practice sessions.
The McElrea Racing driver was the fastest Mobil Pro and Michelin Junior amongst the field, while Morris Finance Pro-Am championship leader Sam Shahin led the way in the always competitive Carrera Cup ‘race within a race’ today.
Murray finished Practice 1 in seventh position but as the track improved so too did the times, the Friday pacesetter ultimately jumping to the top of the charts late in the second session as teams began looking towards qualifying tomorrow morning.
He ultimately led David Russell, Dale Wood and fellow Michelin Junior Matthew Payne on today’s combined leaderboard, set based on the results of the faster second session.
The results also came following a complete rebuild of his car, following his involvement in a substantial crash at the most recent round at The Bend Motorsport Park.
“It’s only practice, tomorrow is pay day, but its positive as we going in the right direction and we’re at the front at the moment and hopefully we back up there tomorrow morning,” Murray said.
“The track has rubbered up a lot from this morning, it’s just hotter than when we were here last time. I’m feeling very comfortable with the car and within the team, I have great confidence with McElrea and know they’ll always provide me the best car and I’ve just got to out there and do my best.”
The ever-consistent David Wall had a productive day, topping the first practice session of the weekend and finishing fifth in the quicker afternoon run.
The Wall Racing team has had a challenging build-up to the weekend after being forced to leave their Sydney base due to the current Covid-19 outbreak in the city.
“It’s been a big three weeks and I was keen to get in the car more than I have ever been,” he said.
“The car was pretty good, we made some changes from when we were here in 2019 and they were all positive and we only ran the one set of tyres in that session.
“There still a few little bits in myself and tweaks in the car, but in general it was a great start to the weekend.”
Aaron Love, championship leader Cameron Hill, Craig Lowndes, Christian Pancione and Nick McBride completed the top-10 in the afternoon session, the group covered by exactly one second.
The Morris Finance Pro-Am results were equally competitive on Friday in Townsville, with another close fight expected this weekend.
Adrian Flack paced the first session in the morning ahead of Sam Shahin and Geoff Emery, while the quicker afternoon blast saw Shahin lead the way – Flack and Dean Cook in close company with Emery fourth.
“The pace is hot and its incredibly hot out there as well, having just come from Adelaide at 8 degrees, I was completely knackered after the session – perhaps I need to put the cool suit on for tomorrow,” Shahin said.
“It’s a fantastic circuit and requires a lot of commitment, the session was genuinely enjoyable and its very competitive field, there is no room for error, you have to be committed all the time.”
Flack was similarly pleased with his results in the opening session as he led the way in practice one.
“Great result for the first practice, it’s good to be back in Townsville and really enjoy the track, so should better as the weekend goes on,” he said.
“The track as per normal always feels really greasy in that first session. But by the end as the Michelin rubber is laid down, it felt nice, so it’s looking good.”
Attention now shifts to Qualifying, the 25-minute dash to set the grid set to commence at 9:55am on Saturday morning.
The last time Carrera Cup raced in Townsville, Roger Lago scored a shock outright pole position, the first Morris Finance Pro-Am driver to do so in the categories long history.
Cooper Murray was the fastest Mobil Pro runner and lined up second.
The opening race of Round 3 is set for a 1:45pm AEST race start and will be shown live on Fox Sports, Kayo and live & free on Channel 7.
FULL RESULTS: Practice at Townsville