Changes finally ‘making sense’ for Whincup
In an ominous sign for Jamie Whincup’s rivals, the six-time champion ended today’s Hidden Valley practice confident that he’s made a significant step forward with his Red Bull Holden.
Although placed third in the championship after 11 races, Whincup admitted that he and his team had become “a little bit confused” while chasing car balance at recent events.
Winless since the very first race of the season in Adelaide, Whincup uncharacteristically qualified outside the top five for each of the four races across Barbagallo and Winton.
Heading to Darwin buoyed by a positive test at Queensland Raceway last week, Whincup said today’s two 60 minutes of running were smooth sailing for his Holden.
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com’s Practice 2 report.
“The car was much nicer than it’s been for a long time to be honest,” smiled Whincup, who had been second fastest in the opening session.
“I think we found something at the test day last week and things are making sense again.
“We had a really good day (today), just moving forward like the old days.
“Everything we changed went in the direction we thought it would and we improved the car as we went.
“It’s still not perfect, there’s a little bit to go, but that’s tonight’s job to pore over the data and make it better.”
Although typically downplaying suggestions that this weekend will be the spark for his assault on a seventh title, Whincup asserts that he’s as hungry as ever for success.
“We’ve had a solid start to the year but we’ve been hanging in there more than leading the pack,” he said.
“The test day was really important and today there were some promising signs that we’re back on track, but there’s still a long way to go.
“I haven’t won a race or had a pole for a while. I miss it.”
Red Bull team-mate Shane van Gisbergen ended the day third fastest and also spoke of progress on his entry.
Van Gisbergen was third in both sessions, just 0.02s shy of Whincup in the second outing.
“I found a pretty different way with my car,” he explained.
“We’d been fast this year but I struggled to enjoy driving it. It was quite different to what I’m used to.
“We found something today that was really nice to drive and fast, which is very positive.”
The third Triple Eight Holden of Craig Lowndes ended the day just 22nd after traffic saw the three-time champion abandon his green tyre run.
Regardless of car speed, all drivers will have to deal with extreme heat this weekend as ambient temperatures are predicted to be in the mid-30s.
The hot weather saw cool suits and helmet fans mandated for the two 60 minute practice sessions, which see drivers regularly in and out of pitlane.
As was the case at Adelaide’s scorching season opener, Whincup says that cool suits can make or break tomorrow’s races.
“No one will give up, but I believe if you do have a cool suit failure it will be a race-stopper,” he said, noting that cabin temperatures will be up to 60 degrees.
“Everyone will try and keep going, but I don’t think 20 laps in that heat without a cool suit is possible.”
The Supercars drivers will tackle a final practice session tomorrow morning before qualifying and the afternoon’s 120km race.