Whincup pleased Gen3 focus hasn’t cost lap time to rivals

Jamie Whincup and Triple Eight technical director Jeromy Moore (right). Picture: Mark Horsburgh

Triple Eight Race Engineering’s Jamie Whincup is happy his team’s focus on Gen3 hasn’t cost them significant time relative to the opposition.

Whincup and his Red Bull Ampol Racing team-mate Shane van Gisbergen were at the fore in night practice for the Bunnings Trade Sydney SuperNight.

The seven-time champion was 12th fastest in Practice 1 on Friday afternoon before climbing to second in Practice 2 under lights.

Meanwhile, van Gisbergen was seventh in Practice 1 and third in Practice 2.

Whincup was upbeat with his and van Gisbergen’s practice pace. Notably, the team opted not to run a second set of soft compound tyres in the first hit-out while others around them did so.

The team principal-in-waiting (he will succeed Roland Dane by the start of 2022) was especially upbeat considering the team’s recent focus on the Gen3 programme as the designated General Motors homologation team.

“We weren’t that fast at Sydney Motorsport Park last year, so we’ve taken as much information from those rounds and made some decent changes in our set-ups to try and improve, and I think we learnt a lot today in regards to going in a different direction,” said Whincup.

“We’ll analyse everything tonight and work out what our strengths were compared to our old set-ups, but both cars are competitive.

“Anything could have happened in the last three months in the season break. While we were working on the Gen3 project, other teams could have been massively improving their cars and come out today and smoked us by half a second.

“That hasn’t happened so far, so we’re well and truly in the game.”

While Whincup was optimistic of the team’s form, van Gisbergen tempered his team-mate’s remarks.

It was notably gusty at Sydney Motorsport Park on Friday, giving drivers added confidence into Turn 1 with a headwind increasing downforce.

However, in the post-practice press conference, van Gisbergen said the subsequent tailwind heading in the opposite direction would cause the car to “plough off the track” at Turn 4.

“It’s awesome to be back out there,” said van Gisbergen.

“We didn’t really work too much on the cars today because the track is going to be super different tomorrow with temperatures and wind, so the conditions today weren’t really relevant, but we had an awesome day.

“The car ran with absolutely no issues, and we were up the pointy end for most of the day. Qualifying will be a challenge tomorrow as it always is, but I’m so looking forward to racing under lights.”

For van Gisbergen, Friday’s times might not be indicative of what’s to come if the wind direction does change.

That could leave drivers in the dark, so to speak.

“It’s 10 or 15 degrees cooler and the wind is going the wrong way,” he said of Saturday’s forecast.

“It’ll be completely different comments tomorrow. How relevant today is, I’m not sure.

“You think about these things with set-up, but how much the wind is affecting it… we didn’t really chase the car too much because tomorrow is so much different.”

Qualifying for Race 20 at the Sydney SuperNight gets underway at 15:35 local time/AEDT.

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