IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom showed glimpses of potential in practice and qualifying but could not convert in the race, battling to finish 11th in Race 16 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at the CoreStaff Darwin SuperSprint.

Winterbottom, who set provisional pole after the two-part qualifying sessions, struggled for race pace and dropped back to 11th after time lost during the pit stop cycle.

The IRWIN Racing star was on a lap matching the top three pacesetters in his shootout lap, but a moment over the kerb at Turn 10 cost two-tenths and dropped to seventh, securing a Team 18 lockout of the fourth row on the grid.

A previous four-time race winner at Hidden Valley, Winterbottom stopped on Lap 16 for two right-hand side tyres. He was fighting to defend his top-ten spot, but a close exchange with Chaz Mostert saw the pair run side-by-side up to Turn 6 before he settled for 11th.

While he acknowledged their strong speed earlier in the day, the 2015 Supercars champion conceded there is still areas to improve to convert their pace into a strong result tomorrow.

IRWIN Racing will return to the track tomorrow for Races 17 and 18 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, live on Fox Sports 506 and Kayo Sports.

Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore

“We showed so much potential today but didn’t put it together when it mattered,” said Mark Winterbottom.

“We started well as one of the fastest in practice and set provisional pole in qualifying, but I made a small mistake in our shootout lap.

“I was on for lap that could have put us in the top three but just had a moment over the kerb at Turn 10 which cost a couple of tenths.

“I made a good start in the race but struggled for pace thereafter.

“We went too long with strategy on our first stint and our pitstop was a couple of seconds slower than it should have been and we emerged a few positions lower after the pit stop cycle.

“We will definitely take a few positives away from today but there is still plenty of room to improve with all of those one-percenters to sort out to get our race position up and also not to lose out in the pit lane.

“Hopefully we can qualify better and show some better race pace tomorrow and we will be in contention for a podium.”