Mark Winterbottom was back on top of the V8 Supercar Championship Series' time sheets on Friday afternoon as he soaked up the mixed conditions at Symmons Plains Raceway.
Rain fell intermittently during the afternoon session making set-up decisions more tricky than usual for Ford Performance Racing.
Nevertheless, the Orrcon Steel Ford Credit FPR Falcon driver was 0.1056s ahead of second-quickest Craig Lowndes and 0.230s ahead of main championship rival, Jamie Whincup in sixth.
“It's nice to have the car back to where it has been before the last couple of rounds; very easy to drive. It's all looking good for tomorrow,” said Winterbottom. “The conditions look like they're going to make it tricky but we're happy with what we've got now. We've found a few things with the car from the last couple of rounds which have improved the speed straight away.
“Last year the championship lead was cut to almost nothing here and it would be nice if Whincup donated a few points back! He's quick though, and when you're up at the front the racing normally stays a bit cleaner than down the back but who knows what can happen. It's a tough track; it's tight and always produces interesting racing.”
Winterbottom's FPR team-mate Steve Richards meanwhile was just ahead of Whincup in P5 and felt that his car was back to its 2008 best.
“The car is definitely more competitive here than it has been at the last two rounds but it's condition dependent,” he explained. “The weather is changing every five minutes so you have to rely on a bit of luck as to what state your tyres are in at that point!
“The other thing to say around here is that your competitiveness is measured in thousands rather than hundredths-of-a-second because everything is more compact; it's such a short track and there's only three corners really.”