THE reigning Supercars champion has set his marker nice and early in 2018.
Jamie Whincup laid down not just the fastest lap of the opening practice session at the Adelaide 500, but the second fastest as well.
Mark Winterbottom came closest to the brand new No. 1 Red Bull Holden but Whincup’s best two laps of the session were quicker than anyone else could manage, and some three tenths of a second quicker than in the same session last year.
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Whincup’s quickest time came right at the end of the session even though he encountered traffic at the final corner.
The times came despite an early scare, Whincup grazing his mirror along the wall on the exit of the fearsome Turn 8.
“It was a little bit early to scrape mirrors through there, so I backed it off a bit!” he joked.
His 2017 title rival Scott McLaughlin was another to gently touch the tyres during the session, backing the No. 17 Shell Ford into the tyres after locking the brakes over the bumps into Turn 3.
“We were bowling around on old tyres so it was quite hard to get a feel, and the tracks’ quite slippery as well,” he said.
“I think the tyre grip was hurting us at that moment (but) we need try to get a little bit more feel in the rear.”
Nevertheless he ended up third overall — “there’s a lot more in me but a lot more we need to get out of the car as well” — but four tenths down on Whincup.
Shane van Gisbergen was poised to potentially go even quicker than Whincup, setting the fastest time of all to the second sector split on his final lap, but a wobble through Turn 8 precipitated him running wide at the subsequent hairpin. The lap was still good enough to leave him fourth; his best sector splits from the session would have moved him to second.
Six of the brand new ZB Commodores ended up in the top 10 of the session, with James Courtney (seventh), Tim Slade (eighth), Craig Lowndes (ninth) and Scott Pye (tenth) joining Whincup and SVG.
Will Davison impressed in his first session with new team 23Red Racing, ended Practice 1 in fifth place — one spot behind the car’s previous pilot Cam Waters.
The Nissans figured inside the top 10 until the closing moments, Michael Caruso the quickest in 13th, 0.962s off Whincup’s pace.
Richie Stanaway was the best of the rookies in 15th, one spot ahead of Fabian Coulthard, while fellow 2017 title contender Chaz Mostert also finished deep down in the top 20.
Bathurst 1000 champion David Reynolds spent almost a quarter of the session in the Erebus garage with the left-rear wheelnut jammed on his No. 9 Penrite Holden, the team eventually having to cut the nut off with an angle grinder.
Reynolds would return to the track but finished with a time good enough for 21st, 1.6s behind Whincup.
The cars hit the track again at 12:20pm for another practice session ahead of qualifying for Race 1 later in the afternoon.