It will be an all New Zealand front row for the final two races of the CoreStaff Darwin SuperSprint with Scott McLaughlin and Shane Van Gisbergen sharing the poles for today’s final two 110km races.
The defending series champion edged home Van Gisbergen for Race 17 of the championship while it will be a complete reversal for the weekend’s finale with the Red Bull Commodore coming out trumps over his rival in the second qualifying session.
Van Gisbergen had vented his frustration at his Red Bull Racing team yesterday after the Kiwi struggled to match the straight-line speed of his rivals. The team responded and fitted the #97 Commodore with a fresher engine and was immediately on the pace, heading the timesheets after the opening runs with a 1.06.585.
Several drivers lit up the timing boards on their second runs with McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen trading purple sectors. The Shell V Mustang was the first to cross the line, setting a thundering 1.06.258 to pip Van Gisbergen by a mere 0.05s as the Kiwi duo locked out the front row.
Scott Pye set an impressive final run to end up third ahead of Cam Waters. Mark Winterbottom and Fabian Coulthard held out the third row of the grid while Jamie Whincup was a notable omission from the top of the timesheets as the former champion floundered down in eighth.
Behind Whincup, Kelly Racing’s Andre Heimgartner put in a strong effort to guide the Ned Mustang to ninth.
The second qualifying session saw a number of key runners remain in situ in pitlane for the first runs. Nick Percat opted to capitalise on the clean track and bank a 1.06.353 to mosey to the top of the timesheets.
All of a sudden there was a flurry of activity as the rest of the field donned a green set of soft tyres for their final run.
Van Gisbergen set a purple first sector before McLaughlin responded in the back stages of the lap, though it was not enough to usurp the hard-charging #97 who set a 1.06.289 to beat out McLaughlin for pole by three-hundredths of a second.
Team 18 continue to punch above their weight with Winterbottom sailing to third fastest while Percat’s early run strategy paid dividends as he finished fourth at the chequered flag.
The rest of the top ten was made up of Chaz Mostert, Waters, Whincup, Pye, Anton de Pasquale and Heimgartner.
The biggest loser of the final session was Fabian Coulthard who made an unforced mistake at Turn 1 which left him chasing time for the rest of the lap as he ended up a lowly 16th fastest.
The first race of the day will kick off from 2.30 NZT.