Four-time champion Jamie Whincup produced a stunning late lap to remind the rest of the field that he is the man to beat in Sunday's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Whincup blasted home in a 2:08.3240 to be nearly a second faster than his nearest challenger on the opening day of practice. The Ford pairings of Mark Winterbottom with Steven Richards and David Reynolds with Dean Canto filled out the top three after three practice sessions.
Whincup, partnered by Paul Dumbrell in the Red Bull Racing Holden, said that the hot temperatures and strong winds produced challenging conditions as all teams struggled to dial in the new Car of the Future to the unique demands of Mount Panorama.
"It wasn't the ideal conditions to go fast. We got it reasonably right at the end which was nice," Whincup said.
"Don't right the Car of the Future off yet as being slower than the previous car. This is a unique track and all the information you have from other tracks does not apply here so give us a few days and it will come quicker later in the week."
Reynolds' co-driver Canto said the conditions were challenging and that caught several drivers out on the slippery and windy conditions.
The worst off was the Mercedes E63 AMG of Tim Slade and Andrew Thompson who had an off each, with their team facing a long night to repair the significant damage.
However Alex Davison, Todd Kelly and Jason Bright all went off to punctuate a stop-start final practice session with a series of red flags.
"The temperature is having a massive effect and guys are trying to push the cars hard when they are unbalanced and there is more margin to make a mistake," Richards said.
"That is where we are at. We can see what the time is, we think we should be faster but we can't because the car is doing some things that it doesn't usually do when the temps' cool."
His lead driver Winterbottom said comparisons with the old cars and record times at Mount Panorama are irrelevant.
"The track has deteriorated over the years and conditions were tough today. Remember that last year a 2:07.7 was on pole," he said. "Next year the track will be resurfaced so I can assure you the lap record will go and with a Car of the Future."
The final practice session was extended by 15 minutes, allowing more track time for the V8 Supercars - and in that time, Whincup became the first driver in the '08s'.
Before that the quickest time set was Whincup's Red Bull teammate Craig Lowndes with a 2min10.1021. Lowndes appeared a lowly 17th in the final stint.
Final finishing positions also showed a strong run from FPR, with David Reynolds and Will Davison third and fourth.
Shane van Gisbergen was fifth, leading Bright, Lee Holdsworth (in a Mercedes), Fabian Coulthard, Scott McLaughlin and Chaz Mostert.
Others to note include Holden Racing Team's James Courtney 13th and Garth Tander 15th. The first Nissan home was Michael Caruso in 16th.
Practice continues tomorrow, with two sessions tomorrow before qualifying, which begins at 3pm AEDT.