Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver Jamie Whincup is enjoying himself at Sandown. Picture: Mark Horsburgh/Edge Photographics/AAP
Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver Jamie Whincup is enjoying himself at Sandown. Picture: Mark Horsburgh/Edge Photographics/AAP MARK HORSBURGH

Whincup sizzels in qualifying

JAMIE Whincup has firmed as favourite for the Sandown 500 after another lap record during qualifying for the endurance classic.

Leading title shots Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen produced middling drives on Saturday, allowing the seven-time champ to roar to the front.

His 1:07.8389 lap was almost three-tenths faster than the rest of the field, with Chaz Mostert, James Courtney and David Reynolds filling out the top four positions.

Whincup joked after the session that he was more concerned with snatching the lap record back from co-driver Paul Dumbrell, who stole Whincup's course benchmark in Friday's practice.

"This is a massive deal. What a relief to get there," he said with a laugh.

He and Dumbrell have won two Sandowns in six efforts together and look poised to claim a third.

"The car is definitely better this year than it was last year," Whincup said.

Whincup's super drive means car No.1 is a third of the way to a pole position in the 500km classic on Sunday.

The morning session set a grid for a 20-lap co-drivers race at 1.45pm on Saturday.

Those results will then set another grid for a final 20-lap main drivers race at 4.15pm.

The underperformance of McLaughlin and van Gisbergen means they'll be reliant on their co-drivers to get them closer to the front of the grid.

McLaughlin finished 14th, running off the circuit during a final flying lap.

"Average from my side," he said.

"I've got a bit of work to do ... we have to rally and get going. I better give myself a bit of a kick up the backside."

Van Gisbergen complained of vibration through his run, finishing almost six-tenths of a second behind his teammate.

Thankfully for drivers, threatening forecasts of hail and thunderstorms have been downgraded.

On a windy day in Melbourne, rain is still likely to hit in the afternoon.

- AAP

News Corp Australia

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