V8 Supercar star John Bowe will lead the attack against the dominant Holden Racing Team after qualifying third fastest aboard the Cat Racing Falcon at Hidden Valley today.
Bowe stopped the clocks at 1:08.841, just behind the Holden duo of Craig Lowndes and championship leader, Mark Skaife.
The Tasmanian briefly held pole position, before being knocked back to third in the dying moments of the session held in warm Darwin conditions.
Bowe was nearly a second faster than last year (1:09.663) when he qualified sixth fastest.
"You had to make sure your first lap was fast because the times begin to drop as soon as the tyres get too much heat into them," Bowe said.
"I'm quite pleased to qualify well because it makes life a lot easier on race day.
"Keeping out of trouble is half the battle and that is much easier to do from 3rd than 13th.
"We have considerably better straight line speed this year and the overall package is quite nicely balanced."
Bowe is confident of a strong showing tomorrow, but does not believe the recent parity adjustments made to the Commodores will greatly affect the results.
"They have taken 100mm off the front undertray of the Commodore, but it hasn't made any difference at all," Bowe said.
"The Fords have always dominated qualifying in Darwin, but this year we have Holdens on the front row.
"We're not about to give up without a fight and we will be applying maximum pressure tomorrow."
After finishing fourth in the past two championship rounds, today's strong qualifying performance from Bowe puts the Cat team in a strong position to continue that run tomorrow.
"Today has gone very well for us, but that is only half the job," Bowe said.
"The three races tomorrow are going to be hard, because the warm weather makes it very hot inside the car." <pre> QUALIFYING 1. - Lowndes (Holden) - 1:08.606 2. - Skaife (Holden) - 1:08.676 3. - BOWE (CAT FORD) - 1:08.841 4. - Seton (Ford) - 1:09.000 5. - Larkham (Ford) - 1:09.032 6. - Tander (Holden) - 1:09.053 7. - Radisich (Ford) - 1:09.148 8. - Ingall (Holden) - 1:09.156 9. - Longhurst (Ford) - 1:09.332 10. - Murphy (Holden) - 1:09.337
TIMETABLE: Sunday May 20 9.00 - Warm-up 10.55 - Race One - 18 laps 1.15 - Race Two - 18 laps 3.00 - Race Three - 18 laps