24 February 2023 | General

Merhi, Golding split by 0.00 seconds in S5000 practice

THE opening round of the S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship is set to be furiously competitive – if opening practice at the AWC Race Tasmania is anything to go by. 

Spaniard Roberto Merhi (Garry Rogers Motorsport) and teammate James Golding set identical lap times – to the 1000th of a second – in today’s second practice session to top the charts at Symmons Plains.

Merhi, who finished on the podium in the FIA Formula 2 Championship feature race at the Red Bull ring last year, topped the times with a 49.0716s best. Golding was next with a 49.0728s best – just 0.0012s behind.

The pair are, at this point, only locked in for the opening round of the championship however are keen to make the most of their cameo appearances if practice is anything to go by.

Reigning champion Joey Mawson was third – just 0.15s further back – his 88Racing / Team BRM entry having earlier topped the first session.

Aaron Cameron was fourth and just 0.2 seconds from the quickest time, putting three GRM cars in the top four times today.

Interestingly, the three cars entered by Versa Motorsport elected to sit out the second practice session – drivers’ Cooper Webster, Blake Purdie and Matt McLean watching from pit lane.

The team, who tested at Symmons Plains last month, elected to conserve rubber today in a move they hope pays off later in the weekend.

Despite just the one day of running, lap times are only 0.5 seconds off the outright Symmons Plains lap record set by the category last year.

In practice one, Mawson topped the charts over Cameron, Golding and Cooper Webster, with Merhi in fifth.

Times were tight throughout the field today with 10 cars split by less than one second on combined laps from both sessions, while Silver Star (Pro-Am) entrant Mark Rosser sits within striking distance on his first visit to Symmons.

The S5000 field returns for the all-important qualifying session and race one tomorrow.

Qualifying has changed this year, with just the top three scoring points from the important 20-minute session.

Pole will take 10 points, second 5 and third just one.

Meanwhile, competitors will have 45 seconds of push-to-pass time to use in each race this weekend.

The system, which adds approximately 40 horsepower to the cars, is activated in races with drivers able to use to attack or defend for the allocated time.