Is there any higher praise that Roger Penske might give to a racing driver that to compare him to Rick Mears?
“It’s like Mears at Indianapolis,” said The Captain. “Ten miles wide-open. It’s a credit to everyone. World champion class.”
The man about whom Penske was speaking was Scott McLaughlin. In a season in which the defending Supercars champion had already scored 15 pole positions, number 16 was something special.
McLaughlin lapped the 3.85-mile track in 2m03.3783s and will start the 2019 Bathurst 1000 from pole for the second time in three years in his DJR Team Penske Ford Mustang.
“Oh my god!” he gasped after his record-setting lap. “I was hanging on for dear life there. This car is just a rocketship. I thought, ‘Just hold on to it.’ She just stuck well.”
McLaughlin led a 1-2-3 result for Mustangs in the single-car-against-the-clock session for the 10 fastest qualifiers.
In second place was Chaz Mostert, who looked to have one hand on the Australian $5000 ($3400) check to the pole winner. Mostert went under McLaughlin’s 2017 pole record in his Tickford Mustang, but still found himself 0.41s behind the flying DJR Team Penske car.
Third fastest was Mostert’s teammate Cam Waters. The 23-year-old was the third driver to take to the track and ‘jumped’ past five cars, largely by setting the fastest middle sector of the Mount Panorama track.
Holden fans will be looking to Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen to fly the brand’s flag in Sunday’s 1000km race. The Red Bull Holden Commodores were closely matched by simply lacked the pace of the flying Fords.
“[We] didn’t have anything,” van Gisbergen admitted. “I drove it OK; we’re all good [for Sunday].”
One thing that may run in SVG’s favor is that it has been a decade since a driver won the Bathurst classic from pole position – and the man who did it, Garth Tander, is his co-driver.
A third Tickford Mustang will start from sixth, Will Davison edging out the Holden of Anton de Pasquale by 0.05s. A win for Davison would particularly timely; he already has two Bathurst victories, but none have been scored with his brother Alex, who will be his co-driver Sunday.
Brad Jones Holden duo Nick Percat and Tim Slade were eighth and ninth respectively, Percat explaining that the cars were well balanced, they simply lacked the grip to go any faster. The similar Holden of former winner Mark Winterbottom rounded out the top 10.
With a 598-point championship lead and 300 on offer for the winner, McLaughlin will carry no title concerns into the race, and will never have a better chance to win Australia’s greatest race.
Sunday’s race starts at 11:30 a.m., Sydney time.
Top 10 Shootout results:
1) Scott McLaughlin, Ford Mustang, DJR Team Penske, 2m03.3783s
2) Chaz Mostert, Ford Mustang, Tickford Racing, 2m03.7897s
3) Cam Waters, Ford Mustang, Tickford Racing, 2m03.9178s
4) Jamie Whincup, Holden Commodore, Red Bull HRT, 2m03.9505s
5) Shane van Gisbergen, Holden Commodore, Red Bull HRT, 2m04.1136s
6) Will Davison, Ford Mustang, Tickford/23Red, 2m04.3295s
7) Anton de Pasquale, Holden Commodore, Erebus Motorsport, 2m04.3830s
8) Nick Percat, Holden Commodore, Brad Jones Racing, 2m04.6705s
9) Tim Slade, Holden Commodore, Brad Jones Racing, 2m4.8375s
10) Mark Winterbottom, Holden Commodore, Schwerkolt/Team 18, 2m04.9800s