Scott McLaughlin is the man to catch at the Clipsal 500 after the opening round of practice for the V8 Supercars season at the scorching Adelaide street circuit.
Temperatures rose above 30 degrees for practice and will soar further across the meet, the first Supercars round since Mark Winterbottom claimed a maiden title in Sydney last December.
On Friday morning, McLaughlin took his Volvo to the top of the time charts, ahead of last year’s Clipsal winner James Courtney and veteran Craig Lowndes in their Commodores.
In the lunchtime session, he improved further to smash the practice record by more than three tenths of a second.
The new Red Bull Racing duo of Jamie Whincup and Shane Van Gisbergen were next best, with Winterbottom fourth.
Showing the closeness of the category, six drivers – including all four manufacturers – beat the previous practice record, with the top 21 drivers charting times within a second of McLaughlin’s fastest lap.
While the 26-car field jockeyed for speed and to improve their setups for racing ahead, the talk of pit lane was the scorching weather coming.
Adelaide is forecast to hit 39 degrees on Saturday and 38 on Sunday; making keeping cool in the cars a challenge.
Red Bull newboy Van Gisbergen said the temperatures would still make for a gruelling weekend, even with the sport’s safety measures.
“We have cool suits and helmet fans in the car so we’re prepared for everything but if one of those fails it will be a race ender,” he said.
“(The cool suits pump) cold frozen water over your body so it does help but when it’s up to 60 or more in the car it’s very hot.
“When you’re racing for more than an hour or two hours on Sunday, it’s not easy.”
Van Gisbergen said he was eager to get behind the Red Bull Racing Commodore and start racing after his off-season move.
“Everything feels good and looks good so hopefully it goes well,” he said.
Qualifying for Saturday’s two 125 kilometre races takes place on Friday afternoon from 4:15pm (AEDT).