Supercars star Jamie Whincup has vowed to maintain the championship challenge to teammate Shane Van Gisbergen heading into this weekend's Darwin Triple Crown.
The retiring seven-time championship winner was the fastest driver at Hidden Valley in practice on Friday, clocking a one minute and 05.8799 second lap as the field got to grips with Dunlop's new super-soft tyre compound.
Whincup heads into this weekend's event in second place, 190 points behind Van Gisbergen in the championship standings and having won one race so far this year.
The Red Bull Ampol Racing team has endured a lean recent history in Darwin with just one race win each for Van Gisbergen and Whincup in the Top End since 2015.
Whincup, however, is the most successful active driver in Darwin with seven wins at the venue in his career and can surpass Mark Skaife and Scott McLaughlin as the most successful of all-time at Hidden Valley in Supercars history with two wins over the weekend.
"SVG has got a very healthy lead in the championship at the moment, but my role is to keep pushing him to the end," Whincup said.
"I'm happy to be the best of the rest at the moment.
"As we always do, we'll continue to work together as a team to make sure both cars are quick.
"At the same time, if I can get a few more points in the coming races, that is the plan."
Friday's practice threw up some mixed results as teams tested out how the new tyre compound will work at the circuit.
Whincup was the only driver to go under one minute and six seconds, with Chaz Mostert and Van Gisbergen the sixth and seventh-fastest on the day.
Ford star Cameron Waters will have work to do ahead of Saturday's opening race of the weekend, going from third-fastest in the day's opening practice run to 22nd in the second session.
"The introduction of the super-soft tyre is going to be key this weekend," Whincup said.
"That will throw it up a bit, with a heap of work happening in the pits to try and get it right for racing."
The Darwin Triple Crown begins with a 38-lap race on Saturday before two more 38-lap races on Sunday.
Australian Associated Press