Whincup leads Holden to top of the time sheets in crucial practice

Photo Credit: Supercars

Jamie Whincup retaliated by laying down the challenge to the mighty Mustangs at his happy hunting ground in Tasmania, to lead a Red Lion Supercars fightback at Symmons Plains.

The seven-time Supercars Champion has won more races in Tasmania than any driver in history and continued his love affair with the tiny Launceston circuit.

He broke the practice lap record to lead the field ahead of his Red Bull Holden Racing team-mate Shane van Gisbergen and Penrite Erebus Racing’s David Reynolds. Holdens set the fastest five times with convert Mark Winterbottom fourth and James Courtney fifth.

For Whincup, a lover of records and history, set aside having more weight shifted to the top of his car after it was found the Fords and the Holdens had a Centre of Gravity imbalance.

His record was just one-hundredth of a second faster than Van Gisbergen with two tenths of a second separating first and fifth, three-tenths of a second between first and tenth and just nine-tenths of a second between the 25-car field.

“I am not getting any younger so I will take every one I can get,” Whincup said. “The car is good, it’s not perfect though. The last few years have been really good. Maybe I am asking for a bit too much.”

The Red Bull Holden Racing team has won 10 of the last 12 races at Symmons plains.

Reigning Champion Scott McLaughlin was in the middle of a Mustang trio in sixth, seventh and eighth. Chaz Mostert was sixth with Fabian Coulthard seventh.

“I didn’t get it tougher myself,” McLaughlin said. “As a driver you always want to go out there and do your best but overall I know what to work on and get better.

“It’s so close, you can’t afford a hiccup. We are in the ten for tomorrow so that’s the main thing. We get to have another crack.”

The top ten from today go straight into qualifying tomorrow with the bottom 15 vying for five places in the second qualifying session. From that, the top ten cars go into the final qualifying session.

Simona de Silvestro showed incredible car control when she spun at 180km/h on the main straight, somehow regathered the car from a full 360 degree turn in traffic and returned to the field.

“I just lost the rear. I guess I’m pretty lucky to not hit anything, but it definitely got my attention, for sure,” De Silvestro said.

The Swiss driver’s acrobatics came just after three laps which didn’t help her attempt to break into the fastest group ahead of qualifying on the tricky short circuit.

The top ten from today go straight into qualifying tomorrow with the bottom 15 vying for five places in the second qualifying session. From that, the top ten cars go into the final qualifying session.

FASTEST TIMES IN PRACTICE:

  1. Jamie Whincup – Red Bull Holden – 50.5084
  2. Shane van Gisbergen – Red Bull Holden – 50.5271
  3. David Reynolds – Penrite Racing (Holden) – 50.5858
  4.  Mark Winterbottom – Irwin Racing (Holden) – 50.6902
  5. James Courtney – Mobil 1 Mega Racing (Holden) – 50.6923
  6. Chaz Mostert – Supercheap Auto Racing (Ford) – 50.6932

All attention now turns to tomorrow’s intriguing three-part ARMOR ALL qualifying session, following which teams will only be allowed to make minimal changes before the opening race of the weekend which begins at 4:40pm local time.

SUPERCARS ON TRACK TIMES THIS WEEKEND (ALL LOCAL TIME):

SATURDAY

  • 11:10am – 11:40am – Practice 3
  • 1:50pm – 2:30pm – ARMOR ALL Qualifying (In three parts)
  • 4:40pm – Race 7 – 120kms Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint

SUNDAY

  • 9:25am – 9:55am – Practice 4
  • 11:15am – 11:55am – ARMOR ALL Qualifying (In three parts)
  • 2:05pm – Race 8 – 200kms Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint