Mount Panorama showed its ugly face in Thursday's free practice for the Bathurst 1000, incessant torrential rain curtailing the day's activities after just one lap of the second session
In the earlier lunchtime period, three-time Australian Touring Car champion Craig Lowndes had pipped Russell Ingall by a mere 0.0003 seconds, the duo splashing around half-a-second clear of former World Motorcycle champ Wayne Gardner, making his return to the V8 category after a year's absence.
With visibility virtually zero on the top of Mount Panorama, the second session bit the dust. "It's just dangerous out there," said visiting Scot John Cleland. "There is so much water."
But the conditions didn't faze the hardened Aussie veterans. "The straights were bad and Conrod was a bit spooky," admitted Ingall, "but up the top of the Mountain it was OK because the water drains away."
For Cleland and his fellow British Touring Car Championship aces Jason Plato, Yvan Muller, Alain Menu and Matt Neal, today's weather was a setback in terms of getting accustomed to their cars and the circuit. Bathurst debutant Muller said: "It's terrible. Whenever I went out it was raining more. But I just had to accept it, drive slowly and not take any risks."
The good news is that tomorrow's qualifying is expected to be showery rather than persistently wet, but that still plays into the hands of the experienced locals.
1 Craig Lowndes/Mark Skaife (Holden Racing Holden Commodore) 2m30.7609s 2 Russell Ingall/Larry Perkins (Perkins Motorsport Holden Commodore) 2m30.7612s 3 Wayne Gardner/Neal Bates (Ford Tickford Racing Ford Falcon) 2m31.2966s 4 Jason Bargwanna/Garth Tander (Garry Rodgers Holden Commodore) 2m31.9381s 5 Tony Longhurst/David Besnard (Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon) 2m32.6446s 6 Steve Ellery/Paul Stokell (Super Cheap Auto Racing Ford Falcon) 2m32.6877s 7 Paul Radisich/Jason Bright (Dick Johnson Racing Ford Falcon) 2m33.1043s 8 Alan Jones/Anthony Tratt (Toll Racing Ford Falcon) 2m33.3946s 9 Paul Weel/Greg Crick (K&J Thermal Products Racing Ford Falcon) 2m33.4572s 10 Steven Johnson/Cameron McLean (Dick Johnson Racing Ford Falcon) 2m33.4629s
11 Mark Larkham/Alain Menu (Mark Larkham Motorsport Ford Falcon) 2m33.4706s 12 Paul Morris/Matt Neal (Team Nemo Holden Commodore) 2m33.7469s 18 Jason Plato/Yvan Muller (Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore) 2m35.5664s 35 John Cleland/Rodney Forbes (Wynns Racing Holden Commodore) 2m41.9037s
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