Round 13 SandownV8 Ultimate, VIC
30 November 2 December, 2001
Friday, 5.30pm: Todd Kelly led a Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) domination of provisional qualifying in the final round of the 2001 Shell Championship Series at Victoria's Sandown Raceway, the second time this season he has taken provisional pole.
The Mildura driver's lap time of 1:11.56 around the 3.1km circuit gave his Kmart Commodore the top spot from Craig Lowndes in the Gibson Falcon, earning him the right to go out last in tomorrow's cut throat top 15 shootout for pole.
The next three positions were filled by Kelly's TWR stablemates. Greg Murphy was third fastest in the second Kmart car and the HRT pair of Mark Skaife and Jason Bright were fourth and fifth respectively.
The Kmart team was almost lost in the pre-season merry-go-round that saw the old set-up make way to start Lowndes' new Ford team, but a rescue package by TWR gave Kelly his first full year in V8 Supercars and threw a lifeline to Murphy.
It has led to the late season success that has seen the team combine for podium finishes in the last four Shell Series rounds, including Murphy's clean sweep of the last round in New Zealand.
"The start of the year was spent getting the new team together and we weren't up to matching with an established unit like HRT but we have come a long way this year and Greg and I are finishing the year well," said Kelly.
Lowndes' strong result was a welcome return to form after having battled through the middle of the year with his new team.
"We started on the podium at Phillip Island, nothing since, and now we are looking to finish off strong but the top 15 could be pretty mixed up in the shootout," he said. "It would be good to finish off strong to give us a springboard to 2002."
Murphy was full of praise for his young teammate.
"Todd did an awesome job today and all credit to him. We'll look to get both Kmart cars on the podium on Sunday," he said.
Skaife comes to Sandown with the Shell Series title safely in his grasp and, as he said, "everything to gain and nothing to lose." He had promised fans he would be out to have some fun at this round, but wasn't quite whooping it up just yet.
"I'm not really having fun yet. There are some changes we would like to make to the car and then, hopefully we can get stuck in to the fun stuff on the weekend."
Bright is out to steal second place from Russell Ingall this weekend to set up a 1-2 HRT finish in the Championship and was optimistic he could do it with the help of his TWR friends.
"The TWR cars are working very well at the moment and it is a pleasure to be behind the wheel of it," he said. "We just have to get Lowndesy out of the way and we will be on track for a full HRT podium."
Last year's Sandown hero, Paul Radisich had problems in morning practice before charging back up the timesheets to finish in sixth place in his Shell Helix Falcon. Veteran Larry Perkins showed he had plenty of speed left in him to put his Castrol Commodore in seventh, one spot higher than his younger teammate, Ingall.
Steven Richards was ninth fastest in his last drive for the Ford Tickford team while Marcos Ambrose was tenth in the Pirtek Falcon.
David Besnard (Caltex Ford), Simon Wills (CAT Ford), Paul Morris (Big Kev Holden), Steve Ellery (Super Cheap Ford) and Glenn Seton (FTR Ford) round out the top 15 for tomorrow's one lap run-off for pole.
Following the shootout at 10.05am, the first of the three 150km races will be run at 2pm. Races two and three will be run on Sunday. <pre> Provisional Top Fifteen:
Pos. Driver Team Car Time 1. TODD KELLY Kmart Racing Holden VX 1:11.5651 2. CRAIG LOWNDES Gibson Motorsport Ford AU 1:11.6283 3. GREG MURPHY Kmart Racing Holden VX 1:11.6793 4. MARK SKAIFE Holden Racing Team Holden VX 1:11.7271 5. JASON BRIGHT Holden Racing Team Holden VX 1:11.7981 6. PAUL RADISICH Shell Helix Racing Ford AU 1:11.9300 7. LARRY PERKINS Castrol Perkins Racing Holden VX 1:11.9606 8. RUSSELL INGALL Castrol Perkins Racing Holden VX 1:11.9809 9. STEVEN RICHARDS Ford Tickford Racing Ford AU 1:12.0175 10. MARCOS AMBROSE Pirtek Racing Ford AU11 1:12.1007 11. DAVID BESNARD Caltex Havoline Racing Ford AU11 1:12.1141 12. SIMON WILLS CAT Racing Ford AU 1:12.2800 13. PAUL MORRIS Big Kev Racing Holden VT 1:12.2996 14. STEVE ELLERY Supercheap Auto Racing Racing Ford AU 1:12.3360 15. GLENN SETON Ford Tickford Racing Ford AU 1:12.3401