Aaren Russell reckons it’s all about confidence and the Novocastrian driver has given himself a welcome boost ahead of this weekend’s racing at the Newcastle 500.
The Woodrising 27-year-old was surrounded by family and friends near Nobbys Beach after posting the fastest time of Friday’s practice sessions for SuperUtes.
Russell, who competed in the main Supercars category at last year’s inaugural Newcastle 500, took the support category shift in his stride and rose to the occasion on his hometown track.
He was placed third after the first 20-minute period, which opened proceedings, and then improved again next time around by stopping the clock at one minute and 31.321 seconds.
“It really is about confidence with the whole car,” Russell told the Newcastle Herald.
“I’m still getting used to it. I tested on a track that’s very open with lots of run off and now I come to a track where there’s fences everywhere. It’s so easy just to make one mistake and you’re in a fence.
“But it was a good way to finish the day, making the team and crew pumped as well. To reward them, they’re all calm and patting me on the back. It’s a good way to lead into tonight and tomorrow morning.”
Fellow Newcastle driver Charlotte Poynting, who was part of the Aussie Racing Cars series at last year’s Newcastle 500, had a tougher day in the SuperUtes office.
The Warners Bay 20-year-old was last in both practice sessions, suffering mechanical difficulties in the first but improving for a best time of 1:36.5343 in the second.
Qualifying (9:55am) for SuperUtes on Saturday will be followed by race one (1:05pm). Sunday’s program features two races (8:40am, 11:45am).
Kilaben Bay’s Cameron Mason qualified ninth for Saturday’s first Touring Car Masters race (10:30am) at the Newcastle 500 despite needing to change diffs in between Friday’s opening two sessions.
“We had a good result overall even though we had a bit of drama with our diff mechanically in practice,” Mason said.
“We’ve definitely got that sorted now. We’ve got a new diff being built tonight [Friday] to go in tomorrow [Saturday] and we chucked a spare diff in that was the wrong ratio for qualifying just to get us through.”
Mason, who drives a Ford Mustang and recorded a best time of 1:20.2273, said it was hard not to fall in love with the older style division.
“I think it’s the variety and the age of the cars,” he said.
“A lot of people can relate to growing up with their parents having the cars or themselves and there’s a lot of history. And they’re wild.”
Touring Car Masters continue with the second race (1:55pm) on Saturday and another two races (9:45am, 1:40pm) on Sunday.
In the Toyota 86 class, Rathmines driver Amy Mrcela (1:30.9347) was relishing this month’s Newcastle 500 call up and switch from her regular hillclimb discipline.
She was last in 31st but Berry Park’s Gavan Reynolds (1:29.0880) and Metford’s Hayden Jackson (1:29.2031) were side by side in both practice sessions, finishing 25th and 26th respectively.
Qualifying (9:25am) and race one (12:30pm) for Toyota 86 are scheduled for Saturday. The final two races (9:10am, 12:15pm) are on Sunday.
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