Ford drivers dominated qualifying for the Bathurst 1000, Australia’s premier Supercar race, with Scott McLaughlin setting fastest time in Friday’s 40-minute session.
The 26-year-old New Zealander lapped the 3.78-mile Mount Panorama track in 2m27.6476s, in wet and slippery conditions. With team co-owner Roger Penske looking on after a trans-Pacific flight, the 2018 series champion and 2019 points leader led most of the session to set a Ford 1-2.
McLaughlin ended the session 0.40s clear of Tickford Racing’s Chaz Mostert.
“I was pretty nervous,” McLaughlin said after the checkered flag. “We have not been that good in the wet. I was catching Chaz, and he is a wizard in the wet, so I was happy.”
Mostert was impressed that the session was not red-flagged because there were no serious off-track excursions.
“That was a world-class effort,” he said. “It’s super tough. It takes laps and laps to get heat into the tires.”
Third fastest, and best of the Holden drivers, was Shane van Gisbergen. The New Zealander is a noted wet-weather specialist but had to come back from multiple off-track excursions, including one at Turn 1 with under four minutes remaining, to secure a place in the top 10.
“Today was a good day,” he said. “We didn’t change the setup, so it was pretty good for a ‘dry’ car.”
Fourth fastest was Will Davison in Phil Munday’s 23Red Ford, which is run out of Tickford’s team, ahead of the Brad Jones Racing Holden duo of Tim Slade, ahead of Nick Percat.
It was something of a late-session charge from the next two drivers. Jamie Whincup clearly struggled in the conditions and spent most of the session outside the top 15. But the four-time Bathurst winner vaulted up the order at very end of the session to snatch seventh.
Cam Waters was in much the same position, his Tickford Mustang stuck in the pits with an engine sensor issue for most of the session, before the Monster Energy-backed car burst into life, allowing Waters two laps late in the session.
Next fastest were two Holdens, former race winner Mark Winterbottom rewarding car owner Charlie Schwerkolt with ninth and Anton de Pasquale 10th, well ahead of teammate (and 2017 winner) David Reynolds, who struggled to 22nd.
Fastest of the Nissan drivers was Rick Kelly, who missed out on making the top 10 by 0.03s.
The 26-car field will face two 30-minute practice sessions on Saturday before the top-10 shootout, with the cars running in reverse order, starting at 5:05 p.m. Sydney time.
The 161-lap race is due to start at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sydney time.
Top 10 results:
1) Scott McLaughlin, Ford Mustang, DJR Team Penske, 2m27.6476s
2) Chaz Mostert, Ford Mustang, Tickford Racing, 2m28.0484s
3) Shane van Gisbergen, Holden Commodore, Red Bull HRT, 2m29.1880s
4) Will Davison, Ford Mustang, Tickford/23Red, 2m29.2431s
5) Tim Slade, Holden Commodore, Brad Jones Racing, 2m29.3889s
6) Nick Percat, Holden Commodore, Brad Jones Racing, 2m29.4619s
7) Jamie Whincup, Holden Commodore, Red Bull HRT, 2m29.6973s
8) Cam Waters, Ford Mustang, Tickford Racing, 2m29.7038s
9) Mark Winterbottom, Holden Commodore, Schwerkolt/Team 18, 2m29.8025s
10) Anton de Pasquale, Holden Commodore, Erebus Motorsport, 2m29.8288s