The day began in changeable conditions with rain coming down just as the track opened, and then intermittently throughout the morning.
Despite this, according to Wade Calderwood, manager of Sandown for the Melbourne Racing Club, spectator numbers easily exceeded expectations.
“I expected that we’d get about 7,500 people,” said Mr Calderwood. “But it seems that the number was actually in excess of 10,000.”
The fans were rewarded with a largely dry afternoon of running and the chance to get close to cars and drivers via the lunch time pit walk.
Nissan were out in force after their announcement last week that they would be joining the Championship for 2013. Their display included a number of road cars as well as the Nissan Skyline GT-R that won the 1991 Sandown 500 in the hands of Mark Gibbs and Rohan Onslow.
For the drivers it was their first chance to get back on track in 2012. They were able to use soft and hard tyres over the course of the day and for many it was about re-acquainting themselves with the cars rather than pushing for outright pace.
Times were not necessarily indicative of form as teams tested components and made sure their equipment was sorted for the Clipsal 500 in three weeks.
Despite this focus on testing there was an early boost on offer for the driver who could top the time sheets at the end of the day.
At the lunch break, it was Ford’s new recruit David Reynolds on top, with the fastest five drivers for the morning session:
- David Reynolds, Ford, 1m09.9553s
- Mark Winterbottom, Ford, 1m10.4554s
- James Courtney, Holden, 1m10.5902s
- Todd Kelly, Holden, 1m10.7156s
- Dean Fiore, Ford, 1m10.7229s
The afternoon remained mostly unaffected by weather, and teams took the opportunity to run a lot more laps, significantly lowering their lap times.
In the course of the afternoon session Reynolds’s FPR team-mate Will Davison set the fastest ever lap by a V8 Supercar around the Sandown circuit at 1m09.3230s.
The top five drivers at the conclusion of the afternoon session – and subsequently the fastest of the day – were:
- Will Davison, Ford, 1m09.3230s
- Craig Lowndes, Holden, 1m09.5588s
- Lee Holdsworth, Ford, 1m09.5796s
- Todd Kelly, Holden, 1m09.8234s
- Jonathon Webb, Holden, 1m09.8576s
With the pre-season test completed it is now only three weeks until the Clipsal 500 and the start of what promises to be an exciting 2012 V8 Supercar Championship season.