Jamie Whincup's closest Supercars rivals are taking vastly different approaches to reeling in the series leader at this weekend's Sandown 500.

Red Bull team-mate Shane Van Gisbergen is a picture of intensity and action together with French co-driver Alex Premat.

But in the garage next door, there's a decidedly laid-back feel that two veterans hope will bear fruit.

Steven Richards, 44, and Craig Lowndes, 42, have paired up in car No.888 and are taking a different path towards bridging the 198-point gap to Whincup.

Richards, a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner including last year with Lowndes, said the mood was more mellow in the Team Vortex

"We debrief with all the Red Bull guys and we've got our own shed and talk more," he said.

"It's a little bit nicer than in the past (at Red Bull). Craig and I are pretty easy-going guys.

"Jamie and Shane are quite intense characters but (Craig and I) we'll go and have a cup of tea and cruise along."

And it's so far, so good for the New Zealander.

Richards was quickest and second-quickest in two practice sessions for co- drivers on Friday.

"The car feels great, really good," he said.

"Nice and consistent, easy to drive and that's what we need.

"We need to be able to tick the box lap after lap after lap and not make too many errors."

In the No.97 Commodore, van Gisbergen is more focussed on the high stakes.

After emerging through the season's opening races as Whincup's closest rival, the 27-year-old knows how important the endurance series is.

"If you break the year into three parts, the first part of the season was pretty good and this part really makes or breaks the championship," he said.

"We've got three big weekends up for grabs. We'll push for three good results and we'll be happy."

Premat, who has competed both full-time and as a co-driver for Volvo in the Supercars tour before, said the vital signs were good at Triple Eight.

"It's pretty amazing what they do," he said.

"Everything is going right in the three weeks I've been here."

DJR Team Penske driver Fabian Coulthard was quickest in Friday's only practice session for full-time drivers ahead of Chaz Mostert and van Gisbergen.

Tony D'Alberto, in a DJR Team Penske Falcon of Scott Pye, topped the timing sheets in Friday's late session for co-drivers.