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J-Dub sets the pace on the mountain

DEFENDING Bathurst 1000 champion Jamie Whincup has made a spectacular return to Mount Panorama on the first day of practice by setting the early pace with the fastest lap on the mountain of 2.08.3240.

The reigning series champion is in a tense four-way battle for the 2013 V8 Supercar championship and in steaming 30 degree heat saved his best for last on day one, setting a scorching lap to put his rivals on notice ahead of the 51st Bathurst event.

“It’s great to finally be out on the track, it’s such an amazing place,” Whincup said.

“Although times don’t count on Thursday, we’re encouraged by the speed of the car. The car feels good and of course we have improvements to come but so far so good and we’re definitely well and truly in to Bathurst week.”

“Although the conditions are hot and windy, the new car feels fantastic although the track has heated up which means the tyres are giving up and we’re losing quite a lot of grip. If it cools down over the next few days you’ll find that we should get right into those 2.07 laps,” said Whincup, who with co-drive Paul Dumbrell will head into qualifying tomorrow as a hot favourite.

Meanwhile, five-time Bathurst winner Craig Lowndes was also among the pace-setters. The Red Bull Racing Australia driver is set to rack up a few milestones on the mountain with this year’s Bathurst 1000 marking his 500th start in the ATCC/V8 Supercars Championship series as well as his 20th start in The Great Race.

“Coming into Bathurst, you’re overwhelmed with the feelings and emotions you get when you come to a place like this, it’s got a great aura around it,” said Lowndes, who partners Warren Luff in the No.888 Holden.

“It’s really one of those grand finals days for us, football has got theirs and we’ve got ours.”

Many have suggested lap records could be broken this year but with 30 knot head winds down Conrod Straight, Lowndes said that his VF Commodore even struggled to hit top speed of 299km/h.

“I didn’t hit the rev limiter at all,” Lowndes said.

“With the wind and the heat, the cars are moving around quite a bit. We struggled to find a balance and we had to go to our second set of tyres earlier than what we were planning on, but it turned out to be a great benefit because we got our balance back and tuned the car and it gave me the feedback I was looking for. Bring on qualifying.”

Qualifying will run tomorrow at AEST 13:00, find your local broadcast times here or stream all the action live at www.superview.com.