1 NEWS Sport Reporter
Championship contenders Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard have made a fast start to this weekend's Supercars event in New Zealand.
McLaughlin gave some early cheer for the Pukekohe Park Raceway fans, clocking a one minute and 02.7153 seconds fastest lap at today's opening practice session.
Fellow New Zealander Coulthard was second on the timesheets with a 1:02.8831.
Championship leader Jamie Whincup clocked the third-fastest time of the session with a 1:02.9404.
The trio are separated by a total of 27 points in the championship standings heading into this weekend's penultimate event of the season.
Ford's Chaz Mostert and Holden's Shane Van Gisbergen are the other drivers in contention for this year's title but could only manage the 11th and 19th fastest times of the session.
The opening practice on the resurfaced Pukekohe track featured several drivers coming unstuck.
Coulthard and McLaughlin both had a spin in the grass at the 2.91km circuit's hairpin while Holden's Aaren Russell caused a brief pause in the session when he got stuck in a gravel trap at turn one.
Jack Perkins, driving the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Holden after the team parted ways with Alex Rullo earlier in the week, made early contact with a wall after running wide and finished the session dead last on the timesheets.
Today's action wraps up with a second practice run from 3.10pm.
With Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley's driving in Formula One this season, it might not be too long until the motorsport world is graced by another New Zealand born talent.
At the age of 15, Pukekohe native Liam Lawson is proving every bit a star turn as the likes of Hartley and Scott Dixon, this year taking out the New Zealand Formula Ford title, with an astonishing 14 from 15 races.
Lawson then headed to Australia, taking part in his first season in Formula 4, finishing second to cement his status as a rising star.
"I've had a lot of conversations about what I would do if I wasn't racing - and I have no idea what I'd do," Lawson told 1 NEWS.
"It's the only thing I ever want to do."
Lawson's successes have also caught the eye of New Zealand motorsport legend, Ken Smith - the mentor of Brendon Hartley - who likes what he sees in the youngster.
"It's either born in you, you can do it, or you can't," he said.
"You see a lot of kids that drive and they go good, but there's ones that are exceptional - and he's exceptional."
So with the likes of Hartley and Dixon helping put New Zealand motorsport on the map in recent times, hopefully it won't be too long before Liam Lawson can add his name to the list of Kiwis to shine on racing's biggest stages.