Title contender Shane van Gisbergen has secured the Armor All Pole Position for Race 30 with championship rival Scott McLaughlin third following a thrilling qualifying at the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.
Van Gisbergen moved to the top of the timesheets shortly after the halfway mark in the 20 minute session as the Red Bull Holden man pipped early pace-setter McLaughlin.
The Kiwi posted a 1:10.64s which proved only 0.07s faster than McLaughlin, who brushed the wall several times during a frantic, hard fought qualifying.
The championship rivals looked set to share the front row before Jamie Whincup struck late on to split the title protagonists.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure. The car was awesome, the guys have done a great job here; that’s step one, the race is where it counts. Perfect spot and just stoked,” said van Gisbergen.
“Of course (feeling pressure). We all are. That’s why we love this sport so much; it’s awesome to be here, awesome to be in with a chance of the championship. We’ve got a lot to do this afternoon and tomorrow. All good so far.
“Thanks to the team, our cars are just that good this weekend. Obviously theirs (#1) is good too, they’re right there with us. It’s going to be an awesome fight.”
McLaughlin admitted the session was a challenge.
“That was tough. Hit the wall a number of times just trying to get the most out of it. It was a lot easier to drive yesterday, today it’s a little bit harder to drive,” he said.
“We’ll just have to have a little think about it. We were there so that’s the main thing.
“I think we made a couple of changes that weren’t right. We’ve got to just look back at it. We wanted to be there, we’re there but we’re just not quite (good) enough for pole. We’re not far away, it’s just a matter of making sure of it.”
Shell V-Power Racing will lock out the second row with Fabian Coulthard a strong fourth, just 0.12s adrift of van Gisbergen. Coulthard had topped the times after the first runs.
Preston Hire Racing’s Lee Holdsworth continued his impressive practice pace to claim fifth ahead of the Erebus Motorsport duo of Anton de Pasquale and David Reynolds.
The top 10 was completed by James Courtney (Walkinshaw Andretti United), Craig Lowndes (Triple Eight) and Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing).
Rick Kelly was the top Nissan Motorsport entry in 11th spot ahead of Scott Pye and Tim Blanchard, who, like Lowndes, is retiring from full-time Supercars racing after this weekend’s event.
Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters was issued with a three place grid penalty for impeding Nissan Motorsport’s Michael Caruso.
Caruso was forced to brake heavily heading into Turn 11 after ranging on the back of a slow Waters who was building up for a flying lap.
Waters will start from 19th as a result of the penalty with the top Tickford Ford in 17th thanks to Chaz Mostert.
Supercars Race 30 is scheduled to begin at 1545 AEDT.
Results: Armor All Qualifying for Race 30
|1||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.6430|
|2||1||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.6597||0:00.0167|
|3||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:10.7143||0:00.0713|
|4||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:10.7693||0:00.1263|
|5||18||Preston Hire Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.7693||0:00.1263|
|6||99||Erebus Penrite Racing||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.7912||0:00.1482|
|7||9||Erebus Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.7952||0:00.1522|
|8||25||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||James Courtney||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.8658||0:00.2228|
|9||888||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore ZB||1:10.9953||0:00.3523|
|10||8||Timken Racing||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.0437||0:00.4007|
|11||15||Castrol Racing||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||1:11.0613||0:00.4183|
|12||2||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.0776||0:00.4346|
|13||21||Team CoolDrive||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.0837||0:00.4407|
|14||14||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.1472||0:00.5042|
|15||19||Tekno Autosports||Jack Le Brocq||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.1899||0:00.5469|
|16||100||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.2328||0:00.5898|
|17||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.2607||0:00.6177|
|18||35||Bigmate Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore VF2||1:11.2628||0:00.6198|
|19||78||Team Harvey Norman||Simona de Silvestro||Nissan Altima||1:11.2810||0:00.6380|
|20||23||Drive Racing||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||1:11.3061||0:00.6631|
|21||34||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Golding||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.3536||0:00.7106|
|22||5||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.3835||0:00.7405|
|23||33||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore ZB||1:11.3843||0:00.7413|
|24||230||Milwaukee Racing||Will Davison||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.4685||0:00.8255|
|25||56||RABBLE.club Racing||Richie Stanaway||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:11.4809||0:00.8379|
|26||7||Plus Fitness Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Nissan Altima||1:11.4827||0:00.8397|