Whincup enters this weekend still entrenched in the top ten in seventh in the points and far from being out of contention in only the second Championship event of the year.
Reigning V8 Supercars Champion Jamie Whincup has declared Volvo may not be an immediate threat to his Red Bull Racing outfit despite the flying start to the season by young Kiwi Scott McLaughlin.
Whincup fought back in practice at the opening day of the Tyrepower Tasmania 400 ahead of the first Super Sprint weekend, then disagreed with many others in the paddock who have said McLaughlin and his Valvoline Racing GRM Volvo are near unbeatable at the Launceston track.
In what has been his worst start to a season in nine years, Whincup enters this weekend still entrenched in the top ten in seventh in the points and far from being out of contention in only the second Championship event of the year.
He was fastest by just hundredths of seconds in the final practice session of the day at the short Tasmanian track ahead of team-mate Craig Lowndes and Pepsi Max FPRs Chaz Mostert. Yet again all five manufacturers appeared in the top ten.
In the last session Whincup's 51.33 second lap beat his teammate by 0.509sec, though Lowndes' 51.305sec time recorded in the second session remained the day's fastest around the 2.4km Symmons Plains circuit.
McLaughlin was sixth in practice behind the Fords and Holdens, Michael Caruso the first Nissan home in eighth in the Norton Hornets entry and Lee Holdsworth tenth in the first of the Erebus Motorsport V8 prepared Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.
Whincup, who last year scored a record equalling fifth Championship, later declared it was too early in the year to declare any 'favourites' and that comparing success so early in the year was not a gauge on an entire season.
"I think they will be competitive which they are but no, I think they are where I thought they would be," Whincup said when asked if he thought McLaughlin was the man to beat.
"They have done a very good job, they come from a very good base with GRM and Polestar are a serious engineering company who do a good job.
"But I don't regard them as doing a better job than what we do or the FPR boys. They have come out of the box strong, it's a long year and I wish them all the best."
Whincup's team-mate Lowndes agreed that each race would tell different stories.
"They have shown good pace at Albert Park and Clipsal. There's no doubt they will be strong here as it seems to suit their type of car at the moment," said Lowndes.
"They are quick through the air and quick down the straights. Tomorrow will be a telling factor. Saturday's race may not show their true effect but the 80 laps on the Sunday could be."
Shane van Gisbergen was fourth overall on the day, Nick Percat fifth in the Coates Hire 222 car, then McLaughlin, Fabian Coulthard, Caruso, Scott Pye and Holdsworth. Repair Management Australia's Russell Ingall was a solid eleventh.
Others to note in the final session were Will Davison 14, Mark Winterbottom 16, Garth Tander 18, Jason Bright 21 and Clipsal 500 winner James Courtney 24.
Qualifying will consist of two back-to-back 10-minute sessions, ensuring a dash for ARMOR ALL Pole Position, ahead of the two 100km races tomorrow, beginning at 11.30pm AEDT.