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.