Red Bull Racing Australia's Shane van Gisbergen got his title challenge off to a flying start at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 today, day one of the 2016 finale when he topped the timesheets in practice by lowering the track record to 1:27.073. However, the Kiwi racer's nearest rival, Tim Slade, was a mere two thousandths of a second slower while van Gisbergen's challenger for the crown, teammate Jamie Whincup, was third fastest overall. Chaz Mostert and James Courtney rounded out the top 5.

The session had several red flags as drivers struggled to find grip om the street circuit, especially at turn 8 where Michael Caruso, Shae Davies, Craig Lowndes and Chris Pither all met the wall.

"Disappointing to finish the day the way we did. We've struggled with the balance for a few events now and if it's not right,” Pither said. “This place will bite you and unfortunately that's what happened. We have an awesome crew, they'll get it fixed and we'll go again tomorrow."

Nick Percat was a n unusual, but pleasant sight in seventh place overall, despite the blistering 35 degree heat when his cool suit failed.

Meanwhile, the man who is about to hand over the number 1, Mark Winterbottom, finished the day down in 16th overall.