Steven Johnson and Maro Engel have been one of the most talked about driver pairings heading into the Wilson Security Sandown 500.
While the SP Tools car was down the order in the final practice session, in 20th – the other two Erebus Motorsport V8 Mercedes-Benzes in the top six – Johnson isn’t concerned ahead of the qualifying session and two races following this afternoon.
“At the start of the session, and even from yesterday, we’ve made some good progress,” Johnson told v8supercars.com.au after practice.
“I did the first part of today’s session – only on old tyres from yesterday – and I think we popped into the top five there for a while.
“The car actually felt really good and felt really responsive but I don’t think Maro’s getting that new tyre gain that we need at the moment. I think we need to evaluate what we are doing different to the other two cars.
“Around here the times are so close, a two or three tenth tyre gain is massive and it’s a massive jump in the overall scheme of the grid. So we need to get that tyre gain otherwise we are going to struggle.”
Given the performance of the other two Erebus machines, Johnson sees no reason why he and Engel couldn’t be on top of their game for this afternoon’s all important qualifying races.
“We got some good data from the other two cars, so there’s no reason why we can’t work out what’s going wrong,” he said.
“It might only be a few clicks here and there on the shock absorbers or it might be a bit more of a change.
“We’ll go and sit down and see what we can nut out and hopefully come out firing in the qualifying session.”
Earlier this week, Engel told v8supercars.com.au he was confident of a top 10 finish in the endurance races. And Johnson, looking to rejuvenate his racing career and jump back into the Championship as a full-time driver next year, has plenty to race for.
Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes locked out the top two spots after practice, with Tim Slade, Garth Tander and Will Davison.