Reigning V8 Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom will tackle the Symmons Plains meet with renewed vigour after topping the timing charts in practice.
Winterbottom claimed the fastest time of 51.5263 seconds around the windy Tasmanian circuit on Friday.
The blowy conditions made a mess of the track, with plenty of dirt and muck strewn across the tarmac.
Prodrive Racing mastered the conditions, with Winterbottom leading home teammate Cam Waters ahead of third-placed Jamie Whincup.
It was only practice but it was a meaningful result to Winterbottom.
The 34-year-old proudly races with the No.1 sticker on his car from a dominant season in 2015 but is actually on a dry spell of wins.
After the season-opening Clipsal 500, it’s been 15 races without success for Winterbottom so the career Ford man was happy to end up on top.
“I feel good. The start of the year at Adelaide was tough,” he said.
“The grand prix was a really good confidence boost too.
“(The season) is 12 months and you’re going to have highs and lows.
“You just keep backing yourself. I know we’ll win races because the team notoriously does.
“When we’ve got a good (car), we’ll attack.”
The X-Factor at Symmons Plains looms as the wind.
Cross-winds of 50km/hr had teams scrambling for the correct set-up and looking to avoid the dirt from recently completed safety works.
Winterbottom said he could handle the gusts so long as the direction didn’t change.
“The wind can change 180 degree and the car can be completely different,” he said.
Whincup said he was less concerned about the wind than Saturday’s race strategies.
The six-time series champ said he wasn’t in favour of a shift to one longer 120km race rather than two 60km races and was eager to see how it plays out.
“You’ll see half the field take on fuel. You’ll see half the field keep going … everyone’s fairly well touch and go,” he said.
“It’s very difficult to pass here. Hopefully the pitstops create some passing opportunity.
“Two shorter races with a compulsory pitstop would (have been) ideal because then you’re not losing anything.”
V8 SUPERCARS SERIES STANDINGS
1. Michael Caruso (Nissan) – 222
2. Jamie Whincup (Holden) – 207
3. Shane van Gisbergen (Holden) – 197
4. Scott McLaughlin (Volvo) – 189
5. Garth Tander (Holden) – 187