Red Bull duo eager for dry Pukekohe fight
Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup are both hoping for a clean, dry weather battle at Pukekohe this weekend as the Supercars Championship edges towards its climax.
A morning shower saw today’s track action begin in wet conditions, giving drivers a brief taste of the tricky venue on grooved tyres before quickly drying out.
Forecasts are currently predicting dry weather for tomorrow before showers return on Sunday afternoon.
While Van Gisbergen is known for his mastery in the wet, the local hero was quick to dismiss any suggestion that the weather could play into his hands.
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“I hope it’s dry,” he said after ending practice fourth, just 0.09s adrift of Whincup.
“Tomorrow is meant to be ok and maybe Sunday will be dicey, but this track isn’t very good in the wet.
“There’s so many different surfaces and it’s so hard to feel where the grip is.”
The centre of attention thanks to his 148 championship lead ahead of the final two events, Van Gisbergen said he was happy just to get the weekend underway.
“It’s been a pretty intense week with the media and that so I was just excited to get into the car,” he said.
“I’ve been feeling quite good in the car, we’ve got a nice set-up, one of the best I’ve driven around here.
“All three of us (Triple Eight team-mates) are working well together and trying to keep the cars fast, so for me it’s like every other week.
“The championship’s there but my approach is the same – four good races with no mistakes is my goal and I’ll be happy.”
Whincup topped final practice after narrowly escaping disaster in the preceding session.
The six-time champion ran wide as he went to start his first flying lap, venturing onto the wet grass before going for a wild spin.
“I tried to write the car off early in practice,” he smiled when asked of his day.
“It was more arse than class that the thing stepped a little bit right which kept me on the black stuff.
“The black is more grippier than the green, especially when it’s been raining.
“But we were able to recover, did a couple of sessions with badly flat-spotted tyres before putting our second set on.
“When we did that the car was pretty good, so fingers crossed we can have a dry weekend and battle it out hard.
“It’s a great position to be in where both cars are 1-2 in the championship and we can battle it out.
“May the best man win.”
The third Triple Eight Holden of Craig Lowndes ended the day in 12th.
Lowndes reported positive progress with engineer John McGregor, who has taken over from high-profile absentee Ludo Lacroix.
“Obviously coming into this weekend working with Irish (McGregor) full-time was going to be a bit of a challenge,” he said.
“But it’s also exciting and I think we made a lot of progress through the day, not only with the car, but also for us and the communication.
“We’re really pleased with where we ended up and the car is quite nice to drive.”