MASTERFUL lap by Porsche ace Jim Richards snatched pole position for the Clarion Sandown 500 from the fancied big guns in the Budweiser Top Gun qualifying shootout in Melbourne today. After finishing seventh in his Porsche in a general...
MASTERFUL lap by Porsche ace Jim Richards snatched pole position for the Clarion Sandown 500 from the fancied big guns in the Budweiser Top Gun qualifying shootout in Melbourne today.
After finishing seventh in his Porsche in a general qualifying session, Richards did not put a wheel wrong in a 1 minute 16.97 second lap of the Sandown International Motor Raceway.
Richards and co-driver Tony Quinn will share the front row of the grid for tomorrow's 12 midday race start with Ferrari pair John Bowe and Tom Waring.
"That is just fantastic," a delighted Quinn said as Richards returned to the pits. "I've raced against Jim many times, but this time we're together in my car and I'm very hopeful we can deliver the goods tomorrow."
Both Richards and Bowe are two-time winners of the prestigious 500 kilometre race, which has been run since 1964. Richards won in 1985 and 1989 and Bowe in 1994 and 1995.
While Richards' lap was near-perfect, the real upset occurred as the provisional pole-sitter Paul Stokell struggled to find a competitive time in his big black Lamborghini Diablo.
Stokell could not warm his tyres sufficiently in the cool conditions and the Lamborghini dropped time by sliding wide on several corners, finishing sixth.
"I just couldn't get any heat in the tyres over one lap. We seem to need two or three laps to develop any grip around here, which is great for an enduro but not so flash for a one lap shootout," Stokell said.
"It's a 161 lap race with plenty of pitstops, so being 20 metres behind Jim at the start is not going to make that much difference."
Stokell will share the drive with Steven Johnson, who is bidding to add the Clarion Sandown 500 to his win in the V8 Supercar Queensland 500 last month.
With Sandown's long straights favoring powerful cars, the 8.0 Chrysler Viper of D'arcy Russell also was expected to do well, but the former V8 Supercar privateer threw away his chances with a spin at Dandenong Road corner.
Queenslanders Paul Morris and John Teulan are fourth in a Ferrari, followed by Neal Bates and Steve Webb in a Porsche.
Even after qualifying, predictions for a race winner are wide open.
The leading cars will have to complete four compulsory pit stops, but may need to make a fifth to have sufficient fuel to reach the end at around 3.45 pm.
Reliability is also an unknown, with none of the cars having raced a long distance before.
Among the class competitors, the outstanding performer in qualifying was V8 Supercar driver Cameron McConville, who brought a Holden Commodore GTS home in 11th position, with a time of 1:22.65.
The race start will be preceded by a public tribute to victims of the New York and Washington tragedies.
Spectators will be asked to observe a minute's silence and the three American cars in the race, Russell's Viper, the Chev Corvette of Murray Carter and the Ford Mustang of David Wood, will make a slow parade lap of the track, waving the American flag.
This will be followed by the command, "Drivers, Start Your Engines" by Grand Marshal Peter Brock, which will send the cars away on the final form-up lap.
<pre> BUDWEISER TOP GUN CHALLENGE (Qualifying):
Min., sec. 1. J. Richard/T. Quinn (Porsche GT3) 1:16.97 2. J. Bowe/T. Waring (Ferrari 360) 1:17.31 3. P. Morris/J. Teulan (Ferrari) 1:17.91 4. N. Bates/S. Webb (Porsche GT3) 1:18.07 5. C. Baird/S. Beards (Ferrari 360) 1:18.16 6. P. Stokell/S. Johnson (Lamborghini Diablo) 1:18.30 7. M. Downard/M. Zonneveld (Porsche GT3) 1:20.91 8. I. Palmer/B. Peters (Brabham Honda NSX) 1:22.35 9. M. Carter/K. Kalaitzidis (Chevrolet Corvette) 1:23.25 10. D. Russell/D. Palmer (Chrysler Viper) 1:25.75