Matt Halliday showed no sign of jetlag around Hampton Downs this afternoon. The California-based Kiwi and former A1GP racer set the fastest time in the opening practice session for the Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500, just hours after getting off a plane from Los Angeles.
Halliday is racing with veteran Kiwi driver Andrew Bagnall for the International Motorsport team and the Audi pair recorded the fastest time of 1:41.564.
“We were over a second quicker than everybody else so it’s a good start to the weekend,” says Halliday. “I’ve never been to Hampton Downs before and it’s quite a tricky track to learn with the small undulations. I didn't get a lot of laps, maybe seven or eight, but I made a few small adjustments to the car and got back in for a few laps at the end of practice and the car felt really good. We’ll sit down tonight and have a debrief and we’ll look to find a bit more time tomorrow.”
Lyall Williamson of International Motorsport was pleasantly surprised with the pace shown by Halliday.
“Matt does quite a few miles in the US but even so we were a bit surprised he set the fastest lap, especially considering the track is totally new to him,” says Williamson. “He’s a very confident and aggressive driver and he’s on top of his game at the moment. It’s a nice start to the weekend but it’ll get a lot tougher in the next two days.”
Fellow Kiwi Dominic Storey was second fastest while the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari of Gene Rollinson and Andrew Fawcett was third quickest in the hour-long session. Championship leaders Jaxon Evans and Tim Miles were seventh fastest in their Audi.
Halliday hasn’t raced in New Zealand for eight years but on this form, he and Bagnall will be ones to watch in tomorrow’s Top Ten Shootout and Sunday’s feature race, the Hampton Downs 500.
“We’ll wait and see how we go,” says Williamson. “I’m not going to make any predictions at this stage. The Australian teams are halfway through the Australian Endurance Championship so while we want to do well we have to be mindful we don’t interfere with anyone chasing a championship. In saying that, the competition between Kiwis and Aussies is always pretty fierce so we’re not going to roll over for them.”
Halliday wasn’t thinking too far ahead either.
“I’m going to go home for a sleep and I’ll be fresh as a daisy for qualifying tomorrow," he said.
Gates open at 8 am on Saturday with qualifying for the Hampton Downs 500 starting at 10.50am. Other support categories include Central Muscle Cars and the Ssangyong Racing Series. There will be live coverage of the Top 10 Shootout live on TV from 2 pm while Sunday’s feature race will also be broadcast on TV3 from 12.30. Sunday’s race will also be live streamed via the NZ Herald website.
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