Reigning V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander vaulted to the top of the timing screens with less than a minute remaining of Saturday's Midas 400 practice sessions at Sandown International Raceway, giving Holden top honours after they appeared to be going the way of rival Ford.
Tander's perfectly-timed lap in the Toll HRT Commodore supplanted a quartet of Falcons comprised of James Courtney, Mark Winterbottom, Jamie Whincup and Will Davison, and came as compensation for having made his day more difficult by colliding with Supercar rookie Michael Patrizi in the morning session.
“I only got a lap in when the contact nearly tore a wheel off, so we missed most of the first session and was behind the eight-ball thereafter," Tander commented, "We put a set of [fresh] tyres on right at the end and went fastest but, even then, the first sector time wasn't that good.”
"We did a fair bit of damage in the incident with Patrizi. It looked like he left me room to go through, but then he must have decided he didn't want me to pass. There was contact and it tore a wheel off and did a fair bit of damage.
“Someone said through the week I don't go too well here, so we're doing okay if that's the case. To be honest, [the car] wasn't quite where it needed to be, but we've got to be careful we don't engineer it back through the pack. We need to make it flow a little better, improve turn-in stability, but be mindful that we've got a good car."
Courtney, meanwhile, was confident with progress Stone Brothers Racing was making with his near-new Falcon, having maintained his reputation for being fast around Sandown.
“Sandown is the type of track that suits our car with its short, sharp corners, as you have to be aggressive," he related, "We didn't change [the suspension] much as the guys had hit the nail on the head getting the car off the truck and onto the track straight away. We were good here last year, and I'm looking forward to my much-needed first win as it has been way, way too long in coming.”
Last round winner Winterbottom was disappointed at not being able to exploit his Ford Performance Racing car's potential, complaining of traffic right at the end of the day, but insisted that his race pace will be strong.
Davison, meanwhile, is confident of making further improvements overnight and still believes there is room for more speed in the #18 Jim Beam Falcon prior to qualifying on Sunday morning.