Jamie Whincup set the fastest time in Friday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Bathurst 1000 in Australia. The seven-time and defending Supercars champion roared around the 3.85-mile track in a time of 2m04.1093s to seal top spot during the 40-minute session.
Whincup was surprised with the pace of his Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore which, like all 26 cars in the event, has had its preparation compromised by a day and a half of rainy weather. Ironically, the rain comes at a time at which much of the state of New South Wales has been in drought for a year.
“I have done a lot of laps around this place but never without a practice in the dry before qualifying, with new tires, just hanging on the edge,” Whincup said. “That’s by far the quickest I have been around this place in a Supercar, [and I] couldn’t be happier.”
Whincup headed a Holden 1-2 in the session, topping defending race winner David Reynolds by 0.1555s. Reynolds and co-driver Luke Youlden therefore find themselves in exactly the same position they were a year ago, from which they went on start from the front row and win the race.
Third fastest was the best of the Fords. Scott McLaughin’s DJR Team Penske Falcon, which set a time of 2m04.2862s. McLaughlin set pole time last year and will be a threat to repeat the effort Saturday — by which time team co-owner Roger Penske will be at the circuit.
“That was a lot harder than last year, because we’ve rolled out and had to smash it out in one session,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a credit to the engineers, trusting in the setup that we had last year and putting it back it.”
Whincup’s teammate Shane van Gisbergen was fourth fastest just head of James Courtney. With team co-owner Michael Andretti watching on, Courtney’s Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden sat on top of the times for much of the session, falling 0.3666s short of Whincup’s best time.
Veteran Craig Lowndes finished sixth in the session in his final Bathurst 1000 before retiring from full-time racing at the end of the season.
Cam Waters was the second-best placed Ford driver in seventh place and may have finished higher, had he not had a very quick lap negated earlier when the session was red flagged after another driver ran off the track, when Waters was only 200 yards from the line.
Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing Holden), Reynolds’ teammate Andre de Pasquale and Garth Tander (Garry Rogers Motorsport) also made Saturday afternoon’s Shootout, in which the top 10 drivers will run, in reverse order, one at a time against the clock.
The surprise of the session was the lack of speed from the Nissans. After showing strong qualifying form in recent events the best of the Altimas was that of Rick Kelly in 14th place, two positions ahead of teammate Michael Caruso, who had topped one of the practice sessions.
Saturday’s Shootout is scheduled to start at 5:10 p.m., Sydney time.
1 Jamie Whincup, Red Bull HRT Holden, 2m04.1093s
2 David Reynolds, Erebus Motorsport Holden, 2m04.2648s
3 Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske Ford, 2m04.2862s
4 Shane van Gisbergen, Red Bull HRT Holden, 2m04.3818s
5 James Courtney, Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden, 2m04.4759s
6 Craig Lowndes, Triple 8/Autobarn Holden, 2m04.5702s
7 Cam Waters, Tickford Ford, 2m04.5794s
8 Nick Percat, Brad Jones Racing Holden, 2m04.6481s
9 Andre de Pasquale, Erebus Motorsport Holden, 2m04.6942s
10 Garth Tander, Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden, 2m04.8567s