Michael Caruso pipped Rick Kelly for the top spot on Friday at Winton. Picture: Mark Horsburgh
Michael Caruso pipped Rick Kelly for the top spot on Friday at Winton. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

Star’s one-fingered ‘banter’ with boss after Nissan’s 1-2

NISSAN has capped off a turbulent week by securing the top two spots in Friday Supercars practice for the Winton SuperSprint.

Michael Caruso pipped Rick Kelly by just 0.017 of a second to take the fastest time of the day - and didn't he let his team boss know it.

After hopping out of his car, Caruso made a beeline for Kelly's garage and gave him a cheeky one-fingered salute to remind his team boss what position he was in.

"Just a bit of team banter," Caruso explained.

"Look, me and Rick always have fun - it just happened to be in that session that we were one-two. Anytime we're like a hundredth off each other, it hurts a lot."

Kelly admitted he was already angry with himself after dumping time in the first sector of his fastest lap.

"I got to turn one like a monkey, just going way too slow," he said. "That made me angry that I dumped that time, and we did a good job the rest of the lap.

Rick Kelly finished second in practice two for the Winton SuperSprint. Picture: Mark Horsburgh.
Rick Kelly finished second in practice two for the Winton SuperSprint. Picture: Mark Horsburgh.

"But if I'm dumping that much time and we're still second, we're very good."

It was no small irony that the result came after Nissan announced it was exiting the sport - a decision not based on results - at the end of the season.

The best of the non-Nissans was Nick Percat in third, ahead of Fabian Coulthard and Shane van Gisbergen, with Andre Heimgartner making it three Nissans in the top six.

The narrow, tram-track dry line from practice one had broadened into a thick ribbon by the start of practice two, with the first fliers immediately 10 seconds faster than any time managed in the earlier sessions.

But oil laid down in the final sector at the end of the preceding Touring Car Masters qualifying session made it treacherous early - Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes both slipped off the road at the penultimate corner, and van Gisbergen completed the Triple Eight hat-trick on the pit entry road.

The 2016 series champion was nevertheless the fastest early with a 1min21.006sec lap, before Scott Pye cut half a second off that  in the session.

The No.2 Boost Mobile Holden was soon into the garage though, with the Walkinshaw Andretti United crew doing a significant set-up change they had been forced to delay due to the lack of earlier dry running.

Several teams sent their Enduro Cup co-drivers out for laps in the session. Tickford installed Dean Canto (No.5), David Russell (No.6) and James Moffat (No.55) for the first 10 minutes, and reigning Bathurst 1000 winner Luke Youlden did the first 15 minutes in the No.9 Penrite Holden.

Richie Stanaway was the next to top the order, the rookie dropping in a 1m20.361s, with his time finally surpassed by Caruso a few minutes later.

The Nissan man's time held until the final moments of the session, when Kelly undercut it by three tenths of a second, Caruso taking it back as the chequered flag waved.

Behind the top six was Chaz Mostert and Tim Slade, with Lee Holdsworth eighth.

The Preston Hire Racing pilot, who celebrates his 400th race this weekend could have been higher but for a clash with van Gisbergen on his fastest lap.

"It's not a drama," Holdsworth said. "Shane came down and said he was sleeping on his out-lap. I was on a lap and came into the hairpin and he was trundling around.

"I gave him a bit of a nudge just to get him out of the way. He came down and said he was sorry, so it's all good."

Scott Pye rounded out the top 10 for Walkinshaw Andretti United, and teammate James Courtney missed the final session of Friday running. A tummy bug sent him back to the hotel to recover prior to practice one, his Enduro Cup co-driver Jack Perkins ending the day down in 26th.

A few of the big names ended the day deep in the top 20.

Championship leader Scott McLaughlin was 15th and reigning champion Jamie Whincup 16th, neither using a brand new tyre at the end of the session.

McLaughlin had spent his session doing a race run to determine tyre degradation for the weekend ahead, only bolting on a fresher - but not new - set at the end.

Mark Winterbottom was just ahead of them in 14th, but he had used new tyres.

"Tough day," he said. "Thankfully that session doesn't count for anything other than pride.

"I got traffic at the last sector, but it was probably a 19.9. I could feel the time bleeding (throughout the lap), now we've got to fix it."

The cars will roll out for one more practice session on Saturday morning to start the opening day of qualifying and racing.

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