An extra 80 minutes of practice time for arguably their main rivals failed to prevent another TeamVodafone 1-2 sweep on the second leg of the Middle East tour after practice at the Gulf Air Desert 400 at the Bahrain International Circuit today.
Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander and Will Davison had the benefit of the extra running time following their disastrous season opener at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi last weekend under the rules which give the bottom half of the field two more practice sessions.
Jack Daniel's Racing's Todd Kelly, who also had a terrible Abu Dhabi weekend, did see some benefits for a third today with in-form Shane Van Gisbergen fourth and Ford Performance Racing's Steven Richards fifth.
But Tander (sixth) and Davison (12th) were still more than a second off the pace compared to Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes who set the fastest two times late in the day on the tyre-tough Bahrain track.
Both Lowndes and Whincup used new tyres at the end on the circuit that was part unfamiliar to the teams with the extension to include the full Grand Prix track that Formula One used last year.
“Most people walked the track yesterday and had a good idea of what it would be like,” Lowndes said. “Jamie and I had a good run last time we were here and we got to know that new section of the track pretty quickly.
“The car wasn't perfect. We made a lot of adjustments during the first set of tyres. It was a bit of an unknown setup until the end but a green tyre around here is very rewarding if you get the lines right.”
Kelly said the small reward of extra practice time would easily be swapped for a better start to the Championship.
“He (Whincup) is not last so that's not fair either,” Kelly said. “We are looking at this weekend as a clean slate and the first round of the Championship.”
Tander was at the top of the sheets late in practice and spent the last few minutes watching from the garage. In the end his time was not enough but practice is practice and it is likely they will fire back tomorrow in qualifying and for the first race.
Richards' team-mate Mark Winterbottom (16th) was also struggling in the Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon, as was Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney (14th). Greg Murphy, appearing at his first outing, was a solid 10th in his first time in the car on a race weekend this year.
Both Castrol Racing's Murphy and Supercheap Auto's Russell Ingall (ninth) also appeared to benefit from the additional practice time.