Richards 12th in first practice at Phillip Island

Kiwi Jason Richards has pleasantly surprised himself by putting his Dodo Racing Commodore onto the fringe of the top 10 in opening practice for the BigPond Grand Finale at Phillip Island in Victoria.

Richards, whose team doesn't test at the sweeping Victorian circuit, was nestled in among a flock of teams and drivers on the timesheets who have clocked up hundreds of testing kilometres at the 'Island throughout the last few years.

The Bathurst 1000 runner-up was 12th fastest today, reporting no problems with his Commodore.

"We were in the top 50 percent of the field, so that's good for tomorrow and puts us in the top half for qualifying," said Richards.

"The car isn't as good as we need it to be. But I'm pleasantly surprised to be up where we are in the order.

It's an unusual circuit in Australia given that speeds are high and there are lots of fast corners that load the tyres up. There aren't many tracks in Australia with the same characteristics.

"It requires a completely different sort of car setup than, for instance, the last circuit we visited at Symmons Plains in Tasmania.

"We're not quite there at the moment. But there's only 11 cars in front, so I guess that's better than only having 11 cars behind us!"

His teammate Jamie Whincup had a trying day, only ending up 26th in the session.

"We made some major changes to the car in the session and made some improvements but, still, it's not enough," he said.

"I think we can move forward but it's going to be tough to get right up to the top 10.

"It is nice to be back racing at Phillip Island again for the first time in a couple of years though."

Fine weather dominated the day in the return of V8 Supercars to the seaside venue.

Qualifying will be held tomorrow from 10.45am with the top 10 shootout at 11.45am. Race 1, over 23 laps of the 4.45-kilometre circuit, will begin at 3.40pm.