Marcus Armstrong set out his intent for the weekend and was the first man to dip under the magic one minute mark around the Hampton Downs circuit in first practice on Friday morning.
His 59.892 second lap was the best of a run of 22 laps and came right at the end of the stint on lap 21. Just over one tenth behind was the impressive Raoul Hyman of the United Kingdom, once again showing he is a quick learner around New Zealand circuits.
He was just under five one hundredths of a second ahead of championship leader (with more race wins) Liam Lawson in third. American Cameron Das was a similar distance behind Lawson, with Russian Artem Petrov also just shy of five one hundredths behind Das.
Australia's Calan Williams was another on the pace and was just 15 one thousandths of a second down in sixth. Brendon Leitch was next up just a tenth or so down, then Czech Republic racer Petr Ptacek eight one thousandths of a second behind him.
The super close top ten was rounded out by ever-improving Australian Jackson Walls – the series’ youngest driver - and Austrian Lucas Auer, with all ten covered by the remarkably tight gap of just over six tenths of a second. There is a further afternoon practice session before the first race at 4.25pm on Friday.