Shane van Gisbergen has scored provisional pole for the opening race of the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown, ahead of this afternoon’s subsequent top 10 shootout.
The Red Bull Ampol driver leads Scott Pye, and Chaz Mostert, with Mark Winterbottom and Cameron Waters rounding out the top five.
As has been seen in previous three-phase sprint qualifying sessions, a range of series veterans and favourites were the first major casualties. This is underlined by Will Davison, David Reynolds, and Andre Heimgartner; who occupy the bottom three spots on the grid
The early phase of Q1 was punctuated by the absent cars of Nick Percat and Pye. The Holden duo elected not to do the early cycle in order to save a set of tyres for later running, in case they made it into the ‘Q3’ shootout.
In their absence the Red Bull Ampol duo of Jamie Whincup and van Gisbergen led early over Anton de Pasquale, Jake Kostecki, and Winterbottom. But, characteristic of the short, sharp 10-minute qualifying phases, the totem was always changing.
With just a few minutes to go, Whincup, led De Pasquale, Winterbottom, Tim Slade, and Brodie Kostecki, with van Gisbergen’s early lap dropping him down the grid. And a flurry of late laps would change things further.
The first of the big ones was Pye, briefly taking over first before being passed by a superb lap from Jake Kostecki. By the time the session was done, the top 10 was packed with the category’s youngsters. Jake Kostecki led Pye, Hazelwood, Macauley Jones, Waters, Percat, Bryce Fullwood, Thomas Randle, Zane Goddard, and Whincup.
The presence of young drivers at the front saw a raft of high-profile names get knocked out in the bottom six. Once the flag fell, James Courtney, Will Brown, Jack Le Brocq, Davison, Reynolds, and Heimgartner were locked into the spots from 21st to 26th.
Pye was out to show that his pace was no fluke, immediately throwing down a notable 1:05.529, the fastest time of the event up to that point. With the first round of laps done by the halfway mark, he led Mostert, Percat, Slade, and Waters.
With just over four minutes to run the field pulled out of pit-lane for the final fling to decide the shootout. Van Gisbergen was the big improver, knocking Pye off the top step with a 1:05.507. Winterbottom leaped up, too, to third, only to be sniped by Mostert.
When the dust fell, that top four survived, with no late theatrics threatening the leaders. Waters ended up fifth, over De Pasquale, Whincup, Percat, Slade, and Goddard.
This left Jake Kostecki, Jones, Brodie Kostecki, Fabian Coulthard, Kurt Kostecki, Hazelwood, Randle, Jack Smith, Fullwood, and Garry Jacobson to start between 11th and 20th.