More familiar package pays dividends for Whincup
Jamie Whincup has attributed his Friday showing at Hidden Valley to reverting to a more familiar package than that which he left Winton with.
Whincup was third-fastest in Friday practice for this weekend’s CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown, inside two tenths of the pace set by championship leader Scott McLaughlin.
The performance raises hopes of a return to form after Triple Eight Racing Engineering, particularly Whincup, came off the boil in the last three events.
The 2017 champion has been particularly afflicted, with a sixth position (Race 12, Barbagallo) his best result in the six races since his last podium at Symmons Plains (third, Race 8).
Triple Eight had won five of the first eight races, two of those courtesy of the #1 Red Bull HRT Commodore.
This weekend’s racing at Hidden Valley marks something of a second phase of the campaign, given that it comes off the back of a season-long four-week break since the last event.
Like most teams, the Banyo outfit elected to use one of its test days during the gap in the calendar, but Whincup says that going back to a more proven package is the reason for his promising start to the Northern Territory weekend.
“Quite a bit different,” Whincup responded when asked how his package compared to that which he had at the Winton SuperSprint.
“But we’re sort of back to where we used to be, so to speak, rather than the new pond we were trying to fish for the last three or four rounds.
“Certainly there were no fish there, trust me.
“We worked hard, there’s nothing there, so we’re back in the other ponds (and) we’ve got a few bites, which is nice.”
Whincup suffered the worst of the several Holden drivers who experienced issues with the durability of the ZB’s front splitter and was forced to take a new front bar during Practice 2.
Aside from that setback, which team manager Mark Dutton put down to a manufacturing problem rather than an inherent design flaw, the 35-year-old said his was a positive day in the Top End.
“I’m much happier with the car now,” said Whincup.
“We haven’t been in a good place for the last three rounds and it’s starting to feel a little bit more normal now, which is good.
“(It is) Far from refined – the splitter sort of set us back, messed our plan up a little bit – but all in all we’re there or thereabouts and the car’s much nicer to drive.”
Whincup is currently fifth in the championship, 364 points behind McLaughlin.
The next Virgin Australia Supercars Championship session is Practice 3 tomorrow at 1050 local time/1120 AEST.