Scott McLaughlin has taken his 11th pole position of the year ahead of tonight’s SuperNight race at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The championship leader and last year’s pole king took the prime spot late in the session, breaking the track record in the process to ensure the best possible start for tonight’s 300km race.
He managed to top every session leading up to the final qualifying stanza, beating his team-mate to take another pole position on his way to hopefully taking a maiden championship.
The earlier practice two session saw McLaughlin top the timesheets, going just faster than Chaz Mostert’s time set on Friday night to secure a spot in the second qualifying session. Rick Kelly, Mostert, Fabian Coulthard, Scott Pye, Tim Slade, James Courtney, Jack Le Brocq, Mark Winterbottom and James Golding automatically advanced to the second knockout session.
Under cloud cover and a setting sun, the sixteen drivers who didn’t make the cut in practice took to the circuit to try and advance up the grid over the three qualifying sessions. Jamie Whincup set the pace early on, setting a new lap record in the process by lapping the Sydney Motorsport Park circuit in 1:28.12, two tenths quicker than the record set by Scott McLaughlin in 2017.
Whincup’s team-mate Van Gisbergen went one better on his flying lap, pipping the #1 car with a lap only 0.01 of a second faster. Craig Lowndes joined his pseudo team-mates late in the session by putting in a lap which was good enough for third, letting the three Triple Eight cars into qualifying two.
At the end of the session, Van Gisbergen, Whincup, Lowndes, David Reynolds, Michael Caruso and Cam Waters made it through to the top 16 session. Will Davison and Garth Tander were the biggest surprises in the opening session, only managing 19th and 22nd respectively.
The top 16 hit the track for their ten minute session with Coulthard setting the pace early, going to the top with a 1:28.25, Whincup only just ending up behind him 0.011 down on the #12 car. Van Gisbergen, Reynolds, Pye, Mostert and McLaughlin followed but the championship leader went out for a second lap as the sun broke out, putting in a 1:28 flat, missing out on a sub-1:28 by 0.0028.
Joining him in the final session would be Coulthard, Whincup, Van Gisbergen, Reynolds, Pye, Kelly, Mostert, Caruso and Lowndes as the sun continued to penetrate through the clouds before qualifying three.
With the final ten minute session underway, the group of Coulthard, McLaughlin and Whincup traded fastest opening sectors as Coulthard took provisional pole with his first lap, a 1:28.05. The lap was good enough to go nearly a tenth and a half clear of Whincup while McLaughlin was three tenths down, his Kiwi compatriot Van Gisbergen slotting into third.
Jamie Whincup elected not to get back into the car for another run as the rest of the ten got back out on track to try and improve, or defend, their positions. Scott Pye put in the quickest first sector of the session on his lap, jumping up to fourth by the end of the lap.
McLaughlin lit up the timing screen on his second lap, becoming the first driver in a Supercar to go under the 1:28 barrier with a 1:27.9494. Fabian Coulthard had to settle for second, locking out the front row with his DJR Team Penske team-mate.
Van Gisbergen moved up to third while Kelly and Whincup completed the top five. Pye, Mostert, Reynolds, Lowndes and Caruso will fill up the first five rows for the 300km race.
Image via Keith McInnes Photography