Whincup set for Tassie charge

IT'S business as usual for reigning V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup despite heading to Tasmania this weekend in his worst position for five years.

The high standards of the competition's benchmark driver are demonstrated by his championship finishes since 2006 of second, first, first, second, first, first and first.

And although he will arrive at Symmons Plains in the unaccustomed depth of seventh place, Whincup has the consolation of knowing that not only is Red Bull Racing stablemate Craig Lowndes (runner-up in each of his last three championships) keeping his seat warm at the head of the pack, but also that 13 of the 14 rounds remain.

``It is my worst position in five years, but it's also early days,'' Whincup told The Examiner.

``But we'll still approach things exactly the same way and that's to just go hard or go home.''

There is little chance of the 31-year-old Queenslander choosing the latter option as he seeks to reverse a roller-coaster start to the season in Adelaide.

After finishing first and third in the opening races, Whincup's Commodore was hit with a drive-through penalty for a pit-stop infringement and finished 15th in the third 250-kilometre race won by fellow Holden driver James Courtney.

``After Adelaide we asked ourselves two critical questions. Firstly, were we quick enough? Well yes, we were leading by 10 seconds before the drive-through penalty.

``Secondly, did we do a good enough job? And the answer to that is no. So that's what our focus is on _ maintaining pace, but with less mistakes.''

Whincup, who has won eight races in the last seven years at ``the challenging, twisty'' Symmons Plains circuit with its ``crazy banked hairpin'', welcomed the championship's additional manufacturers who have challenged the Holden-Ford duopoly.

``I'm one for making the competition as strong as can be,'' he said.

``The surprise package has been the Volvo guys, they've come out of the box running, Nissan and Mercedes have also improved and it's up to us to match their pace.

``The hardcore Ford and Holden fans were a little bit disappointed about it initially and expressed vocally that they did not want the category to change, but 18 months on it's the strongest it's ever been.

``We had to do it and it has only been a good thing.''

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Tyrepower Tasmania 400.

WHERE: Symmons Plains.

WHEN: Friday-Sunday.

V8 SUPERCARS:  Friday _ 10.10am Practice 1, 12.10pm Practice 2, 2.05pm Practice 3. Saturday _ 11.30am Qualifying Race 4 ,11.50am Qualifying Race 5, 2.35pm Race 4, 4.35pm Race 5. Sunday _ 11.20am Qualifying Race 6, 3.55pm Race 6.

TICKETS: Ticketek.com.au

MORE DETAILS: www.v8supercars.com.au

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