MOTORSPORT fans – start your en­gines. The Townsville 400 got away to a fly­ing start yesterday, with rac­ers tear­ing up the Reid Park cir­cuit in style. There was no stop­ping Will Dav­i­son in prac­tice as he set the fastest lap of the day in his Ere­bus Motorsport Mercedes- Benz. Mark Win­ter­bot­tom ( pic­tured) was fastest in the first prac­tice ses­sion. The stage is set for an epic bat­tle in what has be­come one of the driv­ers’ favourite events of the V8 Su­per­cars sea­son.

THE smell of burn­ing rub­ber and sound of roar­ing en­gines echoed across the city as mil­lions of dol­lars worth of high­pow­ered ma­chines hit the track for the Townsville 400.

The faith­ful who turned out for the prac­tice rounds of all five cat­e­gories on day one were treated to a teaser of the hard and fast rac­ing to come.

Reign­ing V8 Su­per­cars cham­pion Jamie Whin­cup and team­mate Craig Lown­des’s Red Bull Rac­ing garage proved most pop­u­lar in the pits.

But it was the MercedesBenz car of team Ere­bus Motorsport’s Will Dav­i­son that topped the time sheets.

The event will step up a notch to­day with For­mula 4 race one start­ing from 7.35am with V8 Su­per­cars Top 10 qual­i­fy­ing from 1.10pm.

To­mor­row the Top 10 shootout from 1.25pm will de­ter­mine who will be on pole po­si­tion for Race 17 of the cham­pi­onships from 4.15pm.

Townsville 400 event man­ager Rachael White said they ex­pected a crowd of about 150,000 over the week­end.

“Townsville gets be­hind this event,” she said.

“We get great at­ten­dance of the lo­cal com­mu­nity and ob­vi­ously through­out Queens­land as well.

“Peo­ple are driv­ing up to 10 hours to come to the event.”

Ms White said peo­ple had been fly­ing the colours of their favourite teams.

“This event is fan­tas­tic for the re­gion. We bring a lot of peo­ple to the area,” she said.

“The ac­com­mo­da­tion houses are full. Ev­ery­body needs to eat and drink so the town’s do­ing very well.”

Thou­sands crowded the Su­per Top to hear Aussie hiphop band Hill­top Hoods and other acts on stage last night.

The Liv­ing End and Birds of Tokyo will take to the stage from 6pm to 9.30pm tonight.

Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk stopped by yesterday and will be back to­day.

She said the State Gov­ern­ment would bid to keep the V8 Su­per­cars event in Townsville when its con­tract came up for re­newal next year.

“Queens­land wants to keep the V8s here,” she said.

“We know how much they bring into the lo­cal econ­omy and my tourism min­is­ter will be look­ing at it very closely.”

Ms Palaszczuk said she en­joyed hav­ing the chance to visit the pits yesterday.

“It’s just so well or­gan­ised. Ev­ery­one’s look­ing for­ward to it and I know the peo­ple of Townsville, the fam­i­lies are go­ing to come out,” she said. “Where else would you be but in Townsville this week­end?”



START­ING YOUNG: Eight- month- old Ta­tianah Heus­dens with her aunt Kasey Gib­son at Reid Park yesterday.


BIG SHOW: Alex and Lour­des Foster and Rori Bar­rett at last night’s con­cert, fea­tur­ing Hill­top Hoods ( right) and oth­ers.

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