IndyCar regulars Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe emerged from a tough day at Bathurst with flying colors, and will start Sunday’s 1000km race from 25th grid position.
In a wet qualifying session, Rossi placed the NAPA Australia Holden Commodore on the back row of the grid for the Supercars classic but the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner impressed a lot of hardened observers with a nerveless performance in conditions that tested many Supercar regulars.
To place Rossi’s lap time in perspective, while his best lap time of 2m31.6046s was nearly 4s behind provisional polesitter Scott McLaughlin, the Californian was less than 1s slower than 2010 Supercars champion James Courtney, who races an identical Commodore for the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.
Rossi is also only 0.45s behind the Holden of David Reynolds, the 2017 Bathurst winner and last year’s pole sitter.
All this happened on a track he had never seen, and on Dunlop wet tires on which he had never driven.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle from Day 1,” said Rossi, “we obviously don’t want to be 24th-26th all week, but it’s kind of the way it’s worked out for us with the learning curve.
“In the wet, it was a different ball game and a whole new challenge. In the end, I don’t think it affected our qualifying position all that much. So now we focus tomorrow on the race work and see what we can come up with for the NAPA Australia team.”
Hinchcliffe was well impressed with his co-driver’s effort.
“Honestly, [Alex] did a great job. To start your first qualifying in Supercars in wet conditions having never seen one of these cars run in the wet is obviously a big ask. He rose to the occasion, brought it back in one piece and got faster pretty much every lap — that’s all we can hope for at this point.”
The No. 27 Holden will take part in two 30-minute practice sessions on Saturday and Sunday’s 161-lap race is due to start on Sunday at 11:30 a.m., Sydney time.