It’ll be a Trans-Tasman front row in the Spirit of a Nation Trophy after Jackson Walls beat Liam Lawson to pole position at Teretonga Park.
It marks the first time a driver from Australia has claimed pole position since Thomas Randle in 2017 at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
“I’m astounded,” Walls said.
“I can’t thank my team enough, my parents, everyone just to get me here. I didn’t think it would happen this early, I’m so happy.
“Happy with the car, like everything nothing is perfect always room to improve. I’m looking forward to the race.”
A cool but dry circuit greeted a slightly depleted field. Only 18 cars took to the track with confirmation that Chelsea Herbert would not continue due to a back injury.
A failure from another car in the previous session meant oil dry was left from the penultimate corner through to the final turn.
Immediately it was the title contenders who put themselves to the top of the timesheets. Renault Sport Academy driver Caio Collet was the first to go under the 54second marker with a 53.944 for MTEC Motorsport by R-ace GP.
Lawson was quick to better that benchmark with a 53.835, but that was bested by M2 Competition stablemate Yuki Tsunoda on a 53.731.
With just five minutes to go there was drama. Czech driver Petr Ptacek went wide out of Turn 1 and onto the grass. As Ptacek returned to the track he got loose and gave Emelien Denner of France nowhere to go. As a result, the M2 Competition driver slid off the road and into the gravel.
He got buried in the gravel and duly brought out the Red Flag. Tsunoda and Lawson were just moments away from crossing the line when the session was stopped. Lawson set a 53.643 and Tsunoda a 53.672, but neither of their times counted and it was Tsunoda who stayed on top.
The session was restarted and offered the field a few more opportunities to set a time. Lawson went quicker still on a 53.686 but again it was Tsunoda who edged ahead by 0.010s.
Tsunoda was certainly pushing, as was Ido Cohen. The pair both went wide out of Turn 1 and had to reset themselves for another crack at pole position.
Suddenly, Walls surged to the top. A 53.620 put him to provisional pole. Fraga was fast too and he edged ahead by 0.010s.
It looked for all money that Fraga had it sewn up, but Walls put in one more effort with a 53.535 to take the top spot.
Lawson was one of the last to set a time but was 0.038s adrift of pole position to secure second. Fraga was third and Lucas Petersson another surprise effort in fourth for MTEC Motorsport by R-ace GP.
Less than one-tenth covered the top five with Tsunoda just 0.092 away from the top spot. Oliver Rasmussen, Caio Collet, Franco Colapinto, Gregoire Saucy and Petr Ptacek completed the top 10.
Lirim Zendeli was a lowly 12th overall with Race 2 pole position man Denner 13th despite his off.
Race 2 of the weekend gets underway at 12:30 pm and Race 3 at 3:50 pm local time.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series, Qualifying 2