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Whincup tops Supercars practice in Darwin

NZN 16/06/2017 Matt Coughlan

A desperate Jamie Whincup has sent a clear message he is ready to end his Supercars drought with Friday's fastest practice lap in Darwin.

The Holden star scorched the Hidden Valley Raceway track in 1min 6.0360sec, ahead of Ford's Scott McLaughlin who was 0.0345 away in second.

Third quickest was Whincup's Triple Eight Racing teammate Craig Lowndes - one of three current drivers to race 20 years ago at the inaugural Darwin event with Garth Tander and Jason Bright.

Whincup's winless season has frustrated the six-time champion, but his sizzling practice time shows he will be a force to be reckoned with over the weekend.

A test day earlier in the month had been crucial in finding improvements for his car, Whincup said.

"It doesn't guarantee anything tomorrow, but my car feels good," Whincup said.

"There's obviously still some time in it which we'll work on overnight but, so far, so good."

Walkinshaw Racing's Scott Pye was fourth fastest with Erebus driver David Reynolds rounding out the top five.

Whincup said hot conditions made setting up a car for Darwin unique, with little track deterioration since last year's event.

"We're all pushing very hard on a high-grip surface and, when you do that, sometimes you step over and end up in the green stuff," Whincup said.

"Since the track's been resurfaced, you can actually do some laps, do some testing here. Back in the day, the tyres would overheat after two laps."

Despite being winless ahead of the championship's sixth round, Whincup is just four points off the overall lead.

"I think we're in pretty good shape for the weekend," he said.

McLaughlin was the only Ford driver in the top 10, with his DJR Team Penske teammate and series leader Fabian Coulthard 13th in the second session.

Defending champion Shane Van Gisbergen was ninth, with less than a second separating 22 of the 28 drivers.

"I think everyone's got their own programs and working towards their own goals," McLaughlin said.

"I think you'll find it will be the usual culprits tomorrow. I don't think it's too much of a drama - it's just how it ended up."

Drivers will get a final practice session on Saturday morning before qualifying at 12:45pm and a 42-lap race at 4:15pm.

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