The injection of super-soft Dunlop tyres into the Repco Supercars Championship did not produce the expected impact as Jamie Whincup ran quickest in Friday practice at Hidden Valley Raceway.
The new tyre was not as speedy as expected and there was no sign of the predicted – and hoped-for – degradation that would shuffle the Supercars pack on the annual mid-winter visit to Darwin for the sport’s indigenous round.
Instead, Whincup led a familiar Top 10 in the Red Bull Ampol Commodore as Supercars returned to a three-day race program after a 40-day gap in the season as a result of the Covid postponement of the planned Winton Raceway meeting until the end of July.
Scott Pye was second as Holden bagged the top two spots, ahead of Anton de Pasquale in the quickest of the Ford Mustangs for Shell V-Power Racing.
Whincup’s best lap time was 1 minute 5.879 seconds, as 25 of the 26 runners – with Wildcards Thomas Randle and Kurt Kostecki swelling the regular 24-car field – were covered by less than a second.
“We ticked a lot of boxes in regard to our program today which was good. We got a good mix of race running and qualifying running,” said Whincup.
“SVG focused on the qualifying run in the first practice session, and I did the race work, then we swapped for the second practice session. We gained a lot of knowledge today and hopefully it works in our favour this weekend.”
But there were troubles for van Gisbergen, as the runaway championship leader vented his frustration after finishing the day in seventh.
“We’ve got braking problems, the splitter is vibrating, steering is vibrating, and on top of that it’s bloody hot,” he said.
“It’s a shame we’re focusing on issues rather than car speed, but at least today isn’t a Saturday and we have the night to be thorough and make some changes.”
But the real question in Darwin was the performance of the super-soft Dunlop tyre, which had originally been planned to be raced for the first time at Winton.
“I think we need a super-super soft, or a super-super-super soft,” one leading team boss told Race News.
“We didn’t get the results we were expecting. We thought it would be quicker, and there would be much more degradation.
“But the drop-off on a 20-lap run was only around two-tenths of a second, so maybe conditions were different when it was tested at Queensland Raceway.”
Nick Percat started Friday with the quickest time in the first practice session, just ahead of de Pasquale, with Cam Waters third in the Monster Mustang, but the order was shuffled later in the day as most drivers improved their times and Whincup was first into the ‘five-second’ bracket.
DARWIN TRIPLE CROWN
|3||Anton de Pasquale||Mustang||01:06.035|
|7||Shane van Gisbergen||Commodore||01:06.145|