Will Brown capped a breakthough Supercars season by taking provision pole Friday for the Bathurst 1000 at Australia’s Mount Panorama circuit.
In his first season as a full-time Supercars driver, Brown scored his first pole and win at Sydney Motorsport Park last month, but a steady buildup during practice did not suggest that he was a contender to be fastest in qualifying at Bathurst. But at the end of the 40-minute session in his Erebus Motorsport Holden Commodore, the 23-year-old lapped the Mount Panorama track in 2m03.8989s to take top spot. That time was good enough to tip Anton De Pasquale from the best time by 0.07s.
“Did that just happen?” Brown grinned after the session. “I am glad we are on the right side of that seven-hundredths. To do a ‘three’ around here, I didn’t care if I got pole or not!”
'Did that just happen!?'
— Supercars (@supercars) December 3, 2021
With 11 poles throughout the season, De Pasquale has been the form qualifier in 2021 in his Shell V-Power/Dick Johnson Racing Ford Mustang and only just missed tipping Brown from the top time.
“I knew what time Will did,” De Pasquale said, after waiting until the mid-point of the session to put fresh tires on his car. “We rolled out not where we wanted to be but that was the best we have been. I know it is always pretty hard around here and I think we are looking good for tomorrow’s shoot-out.”
Third fastest was Chaz Mostert in the Appliances Online Holden, co-owned by Michael Andretti, Zak Brown and Ryan Walkinshaw. The 2014 race winner has been the form man throughout the practice session and fell less than 0.1s short of best time around the 3.861-mile Mount Panorama circuit.
Two Tickford Racing-built Mustangs were next. Tim Slade’s fourth place came at the very end of the session and was a great result for the Blanchard Racing Team, given that the car had to be rebuilt after Slade crashed hard at the opening round of the Supercars series, also at Bathurst, in February. Driving for a first-year single-car team, Slade managed to better the identical Monster Energy-backed Tickford entry of Cam Waters by 0.05s.
Right behind was the second Erebus Holden driven by Brodie Kostecki, the double top-10 result ensuring that Brown’s sponsor Shaw & Partners will make good on a pre-session pledge and donate $50,000 to the Feel The Magic charity, which supports youth counselling programs.
Shane van Gisbergen had to settle for seventh place. Having already secured himself the 2021 Supercars title at Sydney Motorsport Park two weeks ago, the defending Bathurst winner was barely 0.3s behind Brown, and the New Zealander still looks to have a great chance of taking back-to-back race wins.
Will Davison’s Shell/DJR Ford was eighth fastest, just clear of 2011 Bathurst winner Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing Holden). The 10th and final place in the shootout went to Jack Le Brocq in the Truck Assist/Tickford Ford.
That last-minute lap time was bad news for Jamie Whincup, who was bumped back to 11th spot. The seven-time Supercars champion is making his final start as a full-time driver before taking on an ownership role with the Red Bull Ampol team next season, and rued a lack of green tire running in the day‘s earlier practice session.
The starting order in the top 10 grid will be determined Saturday afternoon in the single-car Top 10 Shootout. Sunday’s race is set to start at 12:15 local time, the latest-ever start time for the race, which this year is being run nearly two months later than its traditional mid-October date due to COVID–induced delays during the season.
Provisional qualifying results:
1 Will Brown (Aus), Erebus/Shaw & Partners Holden, 2m03.8989s
2 Anton De Pasquale (Aus), DJR Penske/Shell Ford, 2m03.9218s
3 Chaz Mostert (Aus), WAU/Appliances Online Holden, 2m03.9770s
4 Tim Slade (Aus), Blanchard/CoolDrive Ford, 2m04.1540s
5 Cameron Waters (Aus), Tickford/Monster Energy Ford, 2m04.2035s
6 Brodie Kostecki (Aus), Erebus/Boost Mobile Holden, 2m04.2201s
7 Shane van Gisbergen (NZ), Red Bull/Ampol Holden, 2m04.2278s
8 Will Davison (Aus), DJR Penske/Shell Ford, 2m04.3078s
9 Nick Percat (Aus), R&J Batteries/BJR Holden, 2m04.4421s
10 Jack Le Brocq (Aus), Tickford/Truck Assist Ford, 2m04.4933s