The boys are on track in Perth

RED Bull Racing Australia drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes have set the pace in Perth ahead of Saturday’s opening race, the Holden drivers posting the second and fifth quickest times in Friday practice.

Barbagallo Raceway is renowned for its harsh surface and with the mandatory soft tyre all cars were limited to two laps of premium grip during the three 30-minute sessions.

Lowndes (00.56.312) and Whincup (00.56.252) traded the number one spot for the majority of the final two sessions but were pipped late in the day by championship leader Will Davison (00.56.221). The in-form Fabian Coulthard (00.56.287) was third with Mark Winterbottom (00.56.291) in fourth.

Whincup was reasonably happy with his VF Commodore while Lowndes was a man content, citing major improvements to the No.888 machine since a forgettable weekend in New Zealand.

“We’ve made huge headway set-up wise to what we had in New Zealand and we’re quite happy,” said Lowndes, who sits third in the V8 Supercars championship behind Whincup and Davison after a forgettable past two rounds.

“We made a lot of big changes then which resulted in some good understanding and good feel. I’m pretty excited.

“I know there is more in the car as it sits right now because I didn’t extract the best from the tyre. So I’m happy. I had a little bit of understeer at the end but overall, it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Whincup has been the man to beat in qualifying of late but has rued lost opportunity in races with a slight lack of overall race speed. He again is hopeful of a solid qualifying effort but says question marks remain over the car’s long-term pace.

“I’m reasonably happy,” Whincup said.

“We only really got an opportunity to do qualification-style runs – one or two lap runs. The car was reasonable, which it has been over one or two laps but our race pace we won’t know until tomorrow.

“The conditions here are quite cool and the track is slightly off in terms of being at its best, so none of the times were great. We’ve still got a good qualifying car – it’s there or there abouts but it was like that in New Zealand.”

Meanwhile, two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner had a solid outing in the Dunlop Development Series. The 27-year-old was in the top half of the 30-strong field and will contest just his third race in a V8 Supercar on Saturday.

However, he wasn’t entirely happy with himself or his Red Bull Pirtek Holden after finishing 13th and 15th in P1 and P2 respectively.

“It wasn’t the best day for us,” Stoner said.

“The first session wasn’t too bad for us, learning the track and getting used to the car again. The next session we expected to improve but unfortunately went the wrong way with the set-up.

“Tomorrow we’re going to have to try a lot of things in qualifying, try and get our pace up a little bit so we can qualify a bit better and see what we can do for the race.”

Race one of the main category will get underway at 1.45pm AWST on Saturday, with Stoner’s DVS race at 12.50pm AWST. Both categories will complete qualifying in the morning, with all races to be telecast on Channel 7. Check local guides for times.