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Whincup leads the way in frantic Friday practice

A new practice format at Symmons Plains added increased importance to the Friday schedule, delivering a genuine form guide for the weekend ahead.  Pic: Mark Horsburgh
A new practice format at Symmons Plains added increased importance to the Friday schedule, delivering a genuine form guide for the weekend ahead. Pic: Mark Horsburgh

IN practice, if not in name, Practice 2 at Symmons Plains was a full-blown Supercars qualifying session.

Every car bolted on brand new tyres for a flurry of flying laps at the end of the session, with the 10 fastest at the end of Friday guaranteed a more beneficial starting position for Saturday's opening race of the Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint.

Reigning champion Jamie Whincup ended up on top of the pile - leaving the unofficial lap record some 0.3sec quicker than when the day began - with another seven cars joining him in going faster than the previous mark.

Last-start winner David Reynolds was next up, and the only non-Triple Eight or DJR Team Penske driver inside the top six.

Craig Lowndes ended the day third from Scott McLaughlin, Shane van Gisbergen and Fabian Coulthard, while Mark Winterbottom, James Courtney, Scott Pye and Tim Slade rounded out the top 10.

Those drivers automatically advance to the second 10-minute phase of qualifying, part of a new format introduced to reduce congestion.

The remaining 16 drivers - led on Friday by an impressive Simona De Silvestro - will battle it out in the opening 10-minute phase of qualifying for six transfer spots in Q2.

The 10 fastest in Q2 will then battle it out in a final 10-minute session to determine pole position and the first five rows of the grid.

The new format added increased importance to the Friday schedule, delivering a genuine form guide for the weekend ahead.

Although it is combined times from both Friday sessions that set the seeding for Saturday qualifying, every driver set their best lap of the day within minutes of the chequered flag waving in Practice 2.

That meant the track became rather crowded - as too did pit lane.

"We had a car pushed into us in pit lane and then a bit of funny business on the track as well," Rick Kelly said.

"We've moved the problem now from qualifying now into practice. A lot of people are trying to go really fast out there to make sure they get a good position for tomorrow and it creates a little bit of congestion.

"You can't really avoid it, I don't think."

The scuffles were on early in the session too. Courtney and Chaz Mostert tangoed on the run down to the hairpin, both driver's cars carrying scars to the end of the session.

"He's obviously annoyed about me getting in his way," Mostert said.

"There's probably no need for the swerving in front of me. Gave him a bit of a love tap."

Courtney's view was similar: "I caught him earlier in the lap, then he started his lap, and then he slowed down and got out of the way after I backed out of it. I was like, 'oh, you bonehead!'

"Then he wanted to race past me again - I was like 'no, no you don't!' And then (we had) a little bit of a tap, and everyone pressed on!"

The session was halted twice after drivers became bogged in the gravel at the hairpin, first De Silvestro a couple of minutes into the session, then Nick Percat towards the close, setting up a 10-minute faux-qually session.

Topics:  craig lowndes james courtney jamie whincup mark winterbottom scott pye shane van gisbergen and fabian coulthard supercars symmons plains tasmania supersprint tim slade