After a chaotic qualifying and shootout, Jamie Whincup has claimed pole for the opening race of the Coregas Darwin SuperSprint. Scott McLaughlin will start from second place as lead Kiwi.
It was an erratic set of sessions for Whincup on the way to his 87th Supercars career pole — having only scraped into the shootout in 13th position. James Courtney and Cameron Waters will make for an all-Tickford second row, ahead of Lee Holdsworth and Anton de Pasquale.
Former Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom claimed provisional pole — rounding out a clear upswing in speed for Team18, with Winterbottom’s teammate Scott Pye fourth. Fabian Coulthard wound up second behind Bryce Fullwood, and Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen ended up fifth and sixth.
Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters spent a good chunk of the Q1 leading the standings, until a quick lap from Scott Pye put the Dewalt driver to first position. His 1:06.382 was three tenths quicker than Waters, and raised the question of weather.
Up until that point all the times had been set in perfect sunny considitions, but it was thought that some cloud cover would mean quicker lap-times. With four minutes to go the field returned to the track for the rush-hour push; Pye and Waters chased by Chaz Mostert, Mark Winterbottom, Rick Kelly, James Courtney, and Andre Heimgartner.
Vacant from the lead order were both DJR Team Penske entries and both Red Bull Holden Racing Team entries. The four drivers had all elected to preserve a run on their tyres, in the hope of saving some tyre condition for the shootout or later in the session. Conversely, Pye and Winterbottom finished Q1 early.
McLaughlin rocketed to the top, with Jamie Whincup, Shane van Gisbergen, and Fabian Coulthard also improving — but not so drastically. When the dust settled, McLaughlin led Pye, Whincup, Nick Percat, Coulthard, Waters, Mostert, Winterbottom, Lee Holdsworth, and van Gisbergen. Missing the cut for Q2 was Garry Jacobson, Chris Pither, Todd Hazelwood, and Jack Smith.
As the field quickly turned around for Q2 to set the order for the Top 15 shootout, the early phase featured even more shadow on the circuit. While the Red Bull entries elected to again skip the first half of the 10-minute session, the Penske pair and almost everyone else registered a lap.
Again, an interesting mix of drivers led proceedings early; Winterbottom on a 1:06.257 leading a much improved Bryce Fullwood, Coulthard, Pye, McLaughlin, Waters, and Percat as the clock ticked over halfway.
It wasn’t until the last two minutes that the next wave of times would come in. A large portion of teams elected to stay in pit-lane and watch the chaos. While van Gisbergen’s 1:06.467 made him safe for a shootout berth, but they same could’t be said of Whincup’s initial time — good enough only ot 12th.
A late push from Mostert dropped Whincup down one spot, but the seven-day champ would sneak in in 13th. Less lucky was David Reynolds, who was the first of the cars to drop out and miss the shootout. Rick Kelly, Macauley Jones, Alex Davison, and Zane Goddard also missed out on the shootout, having finished 17th through to 20th.
At the front Winterbottom was untouched, continuing Team18’s strong speed. Fullwood, Pye, Coulthard, McLaughlin, van Gisbergen, Waters, Percat, Anton de Pasquale, Holdsworth, James Courtney, Mostert, Whincup, Jack Le Brocq, and Andre Heimgartner would complete the grid for the shootout.
Whincup was the first driver to set a representative shootout time, clocking in with a very quick 1:06.138 — the fastest time of the day thus far. It was quicker than Heimgartner and Le Brocq’s times, and couldn’t be beaten by Mostert, Courtney, or Holdsworth (the latter nevertheless doing well on used tyres).
By the time de Pasquale and Percat had completed their times to sit fourth and fifth, Whincup’s time was still more than two tenths quicker than anyone elses.
As Waters completed his lap, all but equalling the time that got him into the shootout (placing him third), it looked like Whincup’s time might have been impossible to beat. It wouldn’t be his teammate that would beat him, either — van Gisbergen slotting into seventh.
Next out was McLaughlin; perhaps one of the few able to truly threaten Whincup’s time. After an exciting first sector, the series leader appeared to shadow Whincup’s time. By the end of the second sector the pair were separated by less than a tenth.
In the end, he was six hundredths off Whincup; taking second on a 1:06.201.
Pye looked on to set a time close to McLaughlin’s only to spoil his final sector. Coulthard was next, similarly spoiling his lap with a rough second and third sector. This left just Fullwood and Winterbottom to challenge for pole.
At his home event, Fullwood produced an untidy lap with a fluffed run through the final corner and a wide moment at turn one. Still, he was able to salvage ninth ahead of his teammate.
This just left Winterbottom, who was determined to file a cleaner time than those before him. A brief moment at turn 10 blotted what was otherwise a well executed lap. In the end he would end up seventh — handing Whincup pole over McLaughlin, Courtney, and Waters.
|Lee HoldsworthDavid Reynolds
|Anton de Pasquale
|Shane van Gisbergen
|Jack Le Brocq