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Race Pace the objective on Day 1 of the NTI Townsville 500

A double dose of practice action has brought to a close Day One of the NTI Townsville 500. Skies threatened, yet meaningful rain was absent from the day’s running. This is the 15th year of the staple Townsville event, with the 2.86km Reid Park complex a magnet for action and attrition. 

The first of two 40-minute practice sessions went green at 12:15PM local time with Penrite Racing driver Matt Payne sitting within the Top 5 for the early parts of the session. Grey skies looked ominous, yet rain was unsighted during the 40 minutes.  

Payne was one of the selection of drivers that found trouble at Turn 11, opting to run down the escape road after a locked brake. Payne would compose himself to finish a credible fifth position, with a time of 1:14.216. 

Richie Stanaway, driver of the #26 Penrite Racing Ford Mustang prioritised race pace, and experience a relatively quiet Practice One. Highlighting the tight margins present in the Repco Supercars Championship, Stanaway would finish with a time half a second adrift of his teammate, in 17th position. 

Sprinkles of light rain were intermittent on the windscreens of the Penrite Mustangs during Practice Two, with Matt Payne logging plenty of laps as part of a targeted race program. Payne would stay in the #19 Mustang for an uninterrupted 26 minutes, with race pace the primary objective. A late qualifying simulation would allow Payne to vault into position four, before ending the session seventh, with a time of 1:14.271. 

Stanaway found car balance hard to come by, but also benefited from his own race pace program, ending the session in 16th with a time of 1:14.568. 

Matt Payne noted that despite ‘the car going away a little bit more than we wanted’, the long race run was beneficial. ‘Overall, a solid day. A couple of top 10s which is good, it’s good to be back in the mix. It’s really good to be back here in Townsville, it’s one of my favourite tracks.’  

Richie Stanaway is enjoying being back in Townsville for the first time since 2019. ‘It’s a really fun track, and I enjoyed just getting out there and getting into the rhythm. We learnt a lot today and it was really positive. I think we can put together something really strong tomorrow.’ 

Saturday’s proceedings kick off with a 15-minute qualifying session at 10:15AM, with both Matt and Richie aiming to progress to the Top-10 Shootout later that day at 12:05PM. Race 13 of the Repco Supercars Championship rounds out Saturday with a 250km, 88-lap battle around the tricky Townsville street circuit.

Fans can catch the action on Fox Sports, Kayo, and the Seven Network, and can follow the Penrite Racing social media channels for exclusive news and content from the NTI Townsville 500.