Will Davison and Jason Bright have upstaged more fancied runners in qualifying for today’s two 125-kilometre races for the V8 Supercars’ season-ending Sydney NRMA 500, claiming respective pole positions for Race 36 and 37 at the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit.
Davison bounced back from a shocking start for the Erebus Motorsport team, which saw outgoing driver Lee Holdsworth fail to post a time in the ten-minute session, sitting out while his team worked on repairing the damage to his Mercedes E63 AMG caused by his own Turn 5 crash in final practice.
Davison posted what was ultimately the fastest time of the session just seconds before series returnee Marcos Ambrose and veteran Craig Lowndes had separate crashes at at the same corner, with the latter’s proving severe enough to bring out the red flags and bring qualifying to a close.
Despite his highly publicised comeback after a long stint in the NASCAR series, Ambrose is clearly struggling to come to terms with the new generation Supercars, coming unstuck down the escape road on Turn 6 before he messed up a downshift and hit the wall at Turn 5. His hopes of a better finish for either race are now slim, as he will start near the rear of the field for both races.
Perhaps Ambrose could be forgiven in light of Lowndes coming to grief at the same corner. The Red Bull Racing Holden suffered major damage and it will take a major effort from his mechanics – similar to what they put in ahead following Lowndes’ warm-up smash at the Bathurst 1000 – to get him onto the grid and in with a shot of claiming runner-up honours in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
So pole position went to Davison by five-hundredths of a second over Lowndes’ teammate Jamie Whincup, who secured his sixth Drivers’ Championship title last time out at Phillip Island.
David Reynolds was third-fastest in his Bottle-O Ford, ahead of Tim Slade and next year’s Volvo teammate David Wall and Scott McLaughlin. Rick Kelly was seventh-fastest to lead Nissan’s charge, ahead of Mark Winterbottom, Fabian Coulthard and Chaz Mostert.
Qualifying for Race 37 was underway after a short break – Lowndes and Ambrose were MIA as a result of their crashes – and it was a cleaner session, with Jason Bright taking his Team BOC Holden to top spot, narrowly outpacing Shane van Gisbergen, Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup for pole position.
James Courtney claimed the fifth-fastest time in his HRT Holden ahead of Ford duo Winterbottom and Reynolds, the TWR Holdens of Tim Slade and Garth Tander, with Fabian Coulthard rounding out the top ten.
Race 36 gets underway at 2:30pm (GMT +11), with Race 37 following at 4:50pm to finish at twilight. Both races will be run over 37 laps.
Images via Christian Hartung