Triple Eight needs to improve its qualifying form if its to take the fight to DJR Team Penske, says Shane van Gisbergen.
The three-car super team is currently enduring a spotty patch of single-lap form, with both of the Red Bull-backed cars missing out on the Top 10 for Saturday's race at Winton, while van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup could only improve to seventh and eighth on the grid respectively for Sunday's race.
Craig Lowndes' form has been even worse, the veteran now on a run of three consecutive qualifying results outside the Top 20.
Conversely, DJR Team Penske pair Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard locked out the front row for both races at Winton.
While van Gisbergen was able to rescue a result each time despite a relative poor starting spot, reducing his points margin to McLaughlin with a third on Saturday and a second on Sunday, he reckons improved qualifying form will be key to mounting a serious challenge for the 2018 Supercars title.
“I don’t know what it is about qualifying, we’re just struggling to make this tyre switch on and round-to-round we’re not consistent,” said van Gisbergen.
“But out race pace is always there, so we need to find something out, because all three [Triple Eight] cars were struggling. We need to do some homework and make that better.
“We clawed a few points back [at Winton] by being better at racecraft and good strategies but eventually Scotty's going to fix his starts and get off the line and then it’s going to be hard to beat him.
“Our focus now needs to be qualifying for the next few races. It just hasn't been good enough lately.
"If we can fix that then we can go head to head.”
Despite being flustered by the team's single-lap pace, van Gisbergen was left buzzing by his ZB Commodore's race pace on the low-deg, high-grip Winton track after a pair of storming drives on late-stopping overcut strategies.
“I just love tracks like this. You go to Perth and drive around at 20 per cent and it's just crap,” he said.
“You drive to a tyre whereas you drive here and you just push the whole way and it's so much more enjoyable. The car gets faster and faster as the fuel goes off and you really feel like you're driving it.
“It’s really enjoyable to drive a car like that, but we just need to make it work in qualifying too.”