Street track specialist Shane van Gisbergen shook off the distraction of a steering pump issue to post second fastest time in the opening practice for the Sydeny NRMA 500 this morning.

The VIP Petfoods Holden Commodore VF had a smoky first lap of the Sydney Olympic Park track, but the Kiwi was quickly able to bounce back after repairs were made.

He sat atop the timesheets late in the 20-minute session before being pipped by champion elect Jamie Whincup in his Red Bull Racing Australia Commodore.

“It clearly didn’t bother me that much,” van Gisbergen told “It’s not ideal to have a problem because you do lose track time. It did put us behind one run of what we had planned, but that is alright.”

Van Gisbergen arrives at the championship finale in fourth place in the drivers’ championship, but could climb as high as second with a maximum 300 points up for grabs. He won in Sydney last year and is a consistent threat on concrete-lined street circuits.

“You have to resepct the walls but not be scared of them I guess, but I don’t know why (I am fast on street circuits). The car is pretty good on street tracks too. Most tracks we go to with big kerbs we are pretty quick.

“As far as the championship goes, we will go for it,” van Gisbergen added. “Fifth is a fair way behind, so we have to look forward and the only way to catch them is by getting great results.”

The format for the Sydney NRMA 500 changes to two 125km races on Saturday and one 250km race on Sunday from the previous single 250km mini-marathon each day.

Van Gisbergen suspects the change could work against him and his chances of moving forward in the championship. Typically, he isn’t getting worked up over it.

“I would rather the longer races, I prefer them, but that is the way it is these days,” he said.