We now know which ten drivers will fight for pole.
In a surprise finish to the Bathurst 1000 qualifying session, it was Brad Jones Racing driver, Fabian Coulthard, who took the top spot in qualifying which will send him to the top-ten shootout tomorrow. In an even bigger accomplishment, however, Coulthard completely obliterated Mark Winterbottom’s previous lap record set only an hour ago. With a blistering time of 2:05.608, Coulthard keeps the Holden dream alive as he looks to be the one to achieve the 30th win for Holden at Mount Panorama.
Overcoming a slew of mechanical difficulties, it was Shane Van Gisbergen who took the second spot with a 2:05.701. He was followed closely by Dale Wood who took home third with a 2:06.239. A Holden top-three lockout, this is also a huge milestone for Brad Jones Racing as they see two of their three drivers in the top-five and all of them (Jason Bright finished sixth with a 2:06.476) securing spots in the top-ten shootout.
The defending Bathurst champion, Mark Winterbottom, held the lead in the qualifying session but slowly began to be shuffled back as he was unable to match his previous practice session time and settled for a 2:06.255. Still, ‘Frosty’ has a chance to start from pole in the shootout but he’ll need to match or exceed the benchmark which was just established by Coulthard.
Rounding out the top-five was Scott McLaughlin who has been consistently towards the front. His hard work and that of his team has paid off as he also secures a spot in the top-ten shootout tomorrow.
Devastation for top drivers
The current championship leader, Jamie Whincup, who finally managed to get some effective race pace in the previous practice session, was in a red-flag incident going through The Cutting. Taking full responsibility, Whincup could only smile as he said that he “lost the rear and into the fence I went”. With Whincup hitting the wall, it effectively eliminates him from the top-ten shootout and he will start in the last row come race day. Although it was a tough hit, it wasn’t as bad as the one which Reynolds received.
Moving to avoid a slower Nissan, Bottle-O driver, David Reynolds, crashed hard into a concrete wall at the top of The Mountain. Receiving extensive chassis damage to the right side, Reynolds will not only start on the back row with Whincup, but his crew will also have their work cut out for them in order to get the Ford Falcon ready in time for the main 1000km race. A devastating loss for the Ford Performance Racing (FPR) driver, Reynolds was consistently in the top-five throughout all of the previous practice sessions and would’ve had a guaranteed spot in the shootout. Mount Panorama is cruel, however, and when The Mountain hits, it almost always leaves a dent.
Fresh names in the shootout
Jason Bright, Jack Perkins, James Moffat, Garth Tander and Craig Lowndes complete the top-ten and will all advance to the shootout. It’s a bit of a relief as we see many fresh names advancing and it could be argued that it’s good for the category. With many of the young stars in the mix, we could very well see the next generation of V8 Supercar drivers making their stand on The Mountain.
Lowndes keeps 888 hopes alive…barely
With his teammate, Whincup, out of the shootout, it was up to Lowndes to keep the 888 hopes alive. By the skin of his teeth, the veteran and former champion filled the final position of the top-ten on his closing lap. It was close and nobody likes to sit on the bubble but Lowndes pulled it off.
Tomorrow will feature one final practice session followed by the top-ten shootout which will determine the starting order for the first 5 rows of the grid.