Mustangs crush rivals on eve of Adelaide 500
Will Davison declared he has a car to fight with at the season-opening Adelaide 500 after emerging as the Mustang and Supercars pacesetter in testing at The Bend.
Two days before the Supercars season roars to life on the streets of Adelaide, the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner posted the fastest time in windy conditions late in the day as Ford claimed the top two positions.
Andre Heimgartner was the next fastest in his new Kelly Racing Mustang, capping what team owner Rick Kelly said was a "dream first day" after the team worked around the clock to get the car on track.
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Defending champion Scott McLaughlin, who returned on Sunday from his IndyCar test in the US, was eighth fastest as Holden trio Anton De Pasquale, Shane van Gisbergen and Nick Percat rounded out the top five.
Davison, entering his third season with 23Red Racing, was buoyed by his car's pace.
"I'm definitely happy, just to make sure we're in the ballpark, that's the important part of today," Davison said.
"We're not looking too much into the time because people were doing different programs and what not, but certainly nice to end the day up the top and also knowing we've got something to fight with.
"We certainly know we've got a quick car. We're not thinking about P1 too much, but encouraged that we're up in that top bunch."
After the biggest switch of the Supercars' off-season, former long-time Ford favourite Chaz Mostert made his debut in a Holden for new team Walkinshaw Andretti United.
The former Tickford Racing driver finished seventh at the end of the day's testing and rated his first hitout in the Commodore a successful one.
"We got plenty of laps, there were a few little teething issues still with the car, but overall it was a really productive day," Mostert said.
"We went through our whole test plan, which was great. We'll see how we go in Adelaide, but overall it was a good first day for me."
Kelly paid tribute to his crew for having the cars ready for testing after only arriving at the track in the early hours of the morning.
As Heimgartner pushed his car up into the top two, Kelly was 14th fastest and he said there was plenty to build on for the Adelaide race.
"It was a credit to the guys to be able to drive a car like that all day and have a faultless day like that because they have been working night and day to get it to the track," Kelly said.
"The truck only arrived at 3.30 this morning. We rolled the car out and we were basically screwing it together as I drove out of pit lane.
"We just need to be modest in our expectations for Adelaide because it's our first weekend with a new engine and new car."
Only a lack of spare parts, which meant the team could run only one car at a time, dampened the team's Mustang debut.
SUPERCARS PIT STOPS
Supercars technical team says it won't have a true picture of how successful its off-season aerodynamic testing has been until after a few rounds into the championship season.
Parity was the hot topic in pit lane last year with the Mustang hit with enforced in-season changes to its centre of gravity and aero package.
Supercars head of motorsport Adrian Burgess was confident the technical team had come out with "two cars that we believe to be very close" after two rounds of testing in Queensland.
"The proof of it will be in the eating. Until we go to a few different circuits … you never really know," Burgess said.
"You need to see the car in different conditions. Adelaide's a street circuit and then the Grand Prix will be an aero circuit, so you'll get a lot more of a view there and then Tassie will be a low track.
"I think after the first three events you will get a clearer picture whether we got the job right or not."
Supercars newest team made its debut on track at the test day at The Bend as Team Sydney's red Holdens rolled out of the garage for the first time.
While 2010 Supercars champion James Courtney was announced as the team's star signing at Bathurst last year, the squad waited until the last minute to confirm its second driver.
It was not until the morning of test day as the cars were hitting the track that Chris Pither was confirmed as Courtney's teammate in a social media post.
Team Sydney is a rebranded Tekno Autosports squad, which has expanded from a single car operation.
Scott McLaughlin's Bathurst-winning co-driver Alex Premat has been confirmed as Tickford Racing's latest co-driver signing.
The French driver, who teamed with series champion McLaughlin to claim last year's Bathurst 1000 crown, will join Michael Caruso and James Moffat in the Ford squad's co-driver line-up.
Tickford Racing said the driver pairings for the Supercars season of endurance would be confirmed at a later date.
Former long-time Walkinshaw Andretti United co-driver Jack Perkins was last week confirmed as Will Davison's new co-driver for Tickford customer team 23Red Racing.
DJR Team Penske announced in December ex-Brad Jones Racing driver Tim Slade would partner McLaughlin in this year's enduros.