Scott McLaughlin has scooped up pole position for the opening race of the Darwin Triple Crown after throwing down a near faultless performance in the top-15 shootout. He will line up alongside Jamie Whincup for the weekend opener, with Fabian Coulthard and an impressive Mark Winterbottom set to start from the second row of the grid.
McLaughlin’s time was made particularly impressive given the series leader’s complaints of a sore cramp in his left arm; a point the Kiwi noted over the radio and after the session. It’s his 66th Supercars pole.
Shane van Gisbergen entered the top-15 shootout as the car to beat, having been quickest in Q1 and Q2. This was with a condition, though, as the Kiwi had used more of his tyre stock to be there — only just scraping out of Q1 thanks to a last second lap that boosted him from 21st to first.
Behind him, McLaughlin, Coulthard, Andre Heimgartner, Nick Percat, Todd Hazelwood, and Cameron Waters made up second through to seventh. Whincup was eighth, having gotten his own hands dirty between practice and qualifying helping his team repair his Red Bull Commodore after an uncharacteristic practice crash on cold tyres.
Mark Winterbottom, David Reynolds, Scott Pye, Anton de Pasquale, Rick Kelly, James Courtney, and Jack Le Brocq completed the list of drivers contesting the top-15 shootout. Chaz Mostert (20th) and Lee Holdsworth (16th) were the two biggest stars that missed the session; Mostert in particular succumbing to a transaxle failure in Q1.
Of the early runners, De Pasquale was the quickest thanks to a clean 1:07.296. Le Brocq appeared on for a competitive time, but a wide moment through the dirt on the exit of turn 10 cost him a few tenths. The Penrite Erebus Motorsport driver’s time hung around at the top for a while, with Pye and teammate Reynolds unable to beat it (the latter came close, until a wild moment at turn 10 and a wide run out of the final corner).
Surprisingly, it was Winterbottom that would knock De Pasquale on a lightning 1:07.166. His time didn’t stand long, though, with Whincup edging it immediately with the first 1min 06sec lap of the day (1:06.991).
Waters slotted into third, complaining of the debris on the circuit (particularly at the final corner). Brad Jones Racing runners Hazelwood and Percat then popped into seventh and ninth respectively. Heimgartner could do no better, although he would outqualify his teammate Kelly in being 10th.
Coulthard had more for Whincup’s time. After a near faultless lap and a fastest middle first sector, the Kiwi would be second; just a few hundredths off Whincup. Then came his DJR Team Penske teammate McLaughlin — a slight moment in the final sector not enough for him to steal the top spot off Whincup with a 1:06.858. This was despite the driver complaining of a cramp in his left arm following the lap. The only driver left was van Gisbergen, who would be battling old tyres and out of contention for pole.
Whincup, Coulthard, Winterbottom, Waters, de Pasquale, Reynolds, and Courtney ended up completing the top eight, with van Gisbergen salvaging ninth ahead of Pye.
|Anton de Pasquale
|Shane van Gisbergen
|Jack Le Brocq