Mark Winterbottom
Mark Winterbottom. Photo by Lynne Huntting
MARK WINTERBOTTOM/No.5 ORCON Steel FPR Falcon was the fastest driver in the fourth/last V8 practice session, and overall Friday at Surfer’s Paradise in preparation for the weekend Armor All Gold Coast 600 races. Winterbottom’s time of 1:12.3486 was a record breaker, eclipsing the time of 1:13.0720 set in the first session by STEVEN RICHARDS/No.6 Dunlop Super Dealer FPR Falcon FG. Thirteen drivers broke Richards’ time.

Winterbottom, fourth in the V8 standings, is paired with LUKE YOULDEN. Richards’ co-driver is WILL POWER, who set the fastest time in Practice Three

Practice Four was an open V8 session and with two exceptions, all the drivers were ‘regular’ V8 drivers.

Paul Dumbrell and co-driver Jacques Villeneuve
Paul Dumbrell and co-driver Jacques Villeneuve. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Second through fifth were PAUL DUMBRELL/No.The Bottle-O Racing Team Ford Falcon FG; V8 Points Leader JAMES COURTNEY/No.18 Jim Beam Racing, GARTH TANDER/No.2 Toll Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore VE (fifth in the standings); and LEE HOLDSWORTH/No.33 Fujitsu Racing GRM-eighth in the points.

The 40-minute session was stopped close to the end when JONATHAN WEBB/No.19 Dick Johnson Racing Ford Falcon FG landed in the Turn Thirteen tire wall. His co-driver is SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS.

The two International drivers in the fourth session, HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.47 Wilson Security Racing Ford Falcon FG and SCOTT PRUETT/No.30 Gulf Western Oil Racing Holden Commodore VE, were getting some track time after being sidelined with crashed cars. Castroneves admitted his fault in crashing in Practice Two for the International drivers. Pruett missed that session as his Primary driver, NATHAN PRETTY had crashed in the first session for Primary drivers. Both the International drivers made it out for part of the third session, and a few laps in the last.

This weekend is the first time Castroneves has ever driven a V8; but his first Surfer’s race was in 1998 with CART.

Pruett has raced a V8 in the 1997 Bathurst 1000 with ALAN JONES and JASON BRIGHT (who is racing this weekend with International driver ALAIN MENU.) Pruett also has open wheel experience at Surfers, winning the 1997 Gold Coast Indy.

The weather was sunny and clear for most of the day, although the breezes kept the temperatures mild. Many are hoping the last minute forecast change, for showers on Sunday, will prove untrue.

James Courtney and Warren Luff
James Courtney and Warren Luff. Photo by Lynne Huntting