Scott McLaughlin has claimed his 67th and 68th Supercars career poles for today’s second and third races at the Darwin Triple Crown. The Kiwi set the quickest time of the weekend in opening qualifying, then shaved a further tenth off that time in the qualifying session that immediately followed afterwards.
The Kiwi will start alongside fellow New Zealander and teammate Fabian Coulthard in race 14, with Red Bull’s Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen emerging as his closest rivals for the weekend finale.
The qualifying order for races 14 and 15 of the 2020 Supercars Championship were decided by back-to-back 10-minute shotgun qualifying sessions — the limited time giving each driver only a handful of opportunities to throw down a clean lap. And there was also the added spice of the soft tyre and how each team would choose to use it.
The first qualifying session began with most teams doing a cycle on hard tyres. McLaughlin led the timesheets early with a 1:07.441. Halfway through the session, Chris Pither was the first of the drivers on a soft tyre to sit second, over Cameron Waters, Fabian Coulthard, and David Reynolds. But, the order had plenty of evolution to come.
Mark Winterbottom was the first to throw down a genuine lap-time, despite having been cycled out to start his hot lap in the middle of traffic. With the field letting him by one by one, Winterbottom clocked a 1:06.895. It was a quick time, but was soon pipped by both DJR Team Penske drivers. McLaughlin returned to the top on a 1:06.415, with Coulthard tucking in behind just two one hundredths of a second shy.
In the space of a minute, Winterbottom dropped from first to ninth position. Behind the two Shell V-Power Mustangs, Saturday race winner Anton de Pasquale ended up third, over Whincup, Nick Percat, Andre Heimgartner, Shane van Gisbergen, and Reynolds, with Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert completing the top 10.
The way things rolled out for the second session was slightly different, with only eight cars peeling out in the opening minute to take on the timesheets (the remainder electing to try and get qualifying done with only the one cycle at the end of the 10-minute session). Rick Kelly was the quickest of these drivers on a 1:06.858, but many more cars were still to come.
With three minutes to go, the full field was finally on track for their one or two quick attempts at pole. McLaughlin quickly beat the Kelly time, laying down a devastating 1:06.309 — the quickest lap of the weekend to that point. It was a time that nobody could beat.
This time, McLaughlin’s closest rival would be the two Red Bull Commodores of Whincup and van Gisbergen, although McLaughlin’s margin was over three tenths of a second. Mostert was third, over Waters, Coulthard, Kelly, de Pasquale, Reynolds, and Percat in 10th.
Absent from the top 10 was Winterbottom, who ended up 14th. Heimgartner too missed out on a top 10 berth, ending the session down in 18th.
The first race takes place at 3.15pm NZST, with the weekend closer following at 5.25pm NZST.