Rival Supercars drivers could have been forgiven for thinking Jamie Whincup was off his game coming to Phillip Island.
But the seven-time champion responded in typical fashion in Friday's second practice to shape as the man to beat in races on Saturday and Sunday.
The Red Bull Holden ace leads the championship from Shell V-Power driver Scott McLaughlin, going into the fourth event of this year's series.
Whincup's battle against his Ford rival is turning into one of the sport's greatest and the two will jostle on Saturday for pole position.
McLaughlin battled through a tyre puncture in practice one to finish second behind James Courtney, before the New Zealand star clinched the same result in the afternoon session.
After slumping to 17th place in the opening session, Whincup turned it all around with a hot early pace in practice two and never looked like relinquishing his advantage.
"We stuck to our plan and ended up the front, but Saturday is pay day so we'll work hard overnight and make the cars nicer to hopefully come out stronger," Whincup said.
Drivers had to wait 30 minutes for practice two after the session was delayed because of a crash in a support category.
Despite suffering early tyre troubles, McLaughlin wasn't fazed by the issues after last year's chaos at Victoria's Phillip Island.
The 24-year-old had pole position for both 2017 races, only for Fabian Coulthard and Chaz Mostert to come out on top when tyre troubles plagued him.
He wasn't alone having to cope with tyre failures as they marred last year's opening race, forcing him to hold back on day two when Mostert broke a three-year drought with a race victory.
But a change in tyre this year means those problems shouldn't be repeated.
The star drivers agreed practice had given a good indication of what to expect this time around.
"We popped the tyre in practice one so we knew our limit but we had a good run there in the last practice so we're feeling good for Saturday," McLaughlin said.
The first 250km race begins at 3.45pm on Saturday, following on from qualifying at 12.05pm.