Supercars series leader Scott McLaughlin has been setting new records at Bathurst and even in the rain managed to claim provisional pole for Sunday’s Bathurst 1000.
McLaughlin seemed to surprise himself on Friday when he thrived on a treacherous Mount Panorama track, clocking two minutes and 27.64 seconds to hold out fellow Ford driver Chaz Mostert and Holden’s Shane van Gisbergen.
Pole position will be determined on Saturday afternoon in a top-10 shootout.
“I was so nervous before that qualifying session. We’ve been struggling with our wet car so, to come out in an awesome car from the start, so stoked,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin’s time was almost 30 seconds slower than the lap record he set in Friday’s second practice session held under clear skies – a blistering 2:03.48.
It marked the second time in as many days he had lowered the track record.
But the defending series champion was just thankful to emerge unscathed from qualifying.
“It was pretty skatey out there,” McLaughlin said. “I am not sure what is more impressive that (time in the wet) or my (lap) record – but I would much prefer the dry.”
Former Bathurst champion Mostert was amazed no one slid off during the 40-minute qualifying session which remarkably did not feature one red flag.
But he is bracing himself for more wet weather forecast for Saturday’s shootout.
“If it is wet tomorrow, then it will be super tough,” Mostert said.
I had 10 to 12 (scary) moments then. But it was a world-class effort from the grid to keep that session going (with no red flags).”
Holden star Jamie Whincup also impressed on Friday in the wet, surging late from 16th to finish seventh-fastest and snatch a last-gasp shootout spot.
It was a shot in the arm for Whincup who crashed his Commodore during Friday’s second practice session.
Four-time Bathurst winner Whincup hit the wall on top of the mountain after trying to avoid Holden’s Richie Stanaway, who crashed just ahead of him.
It ensured some anxious moments for his Red Bull Racing team who furiously repaired the Commodore to ensure it was ready for qualifying.
Whincup is one of the hot favourites after recruiting seven-time Bathurst winner Craig Lowndes as his co-driver, reuniting after claiming three-straight Great Races from 2006.
But the man to catch will be McLaughlin who is desperate to claim a maiden Bathurst title.
The New Zealander has adopted a “win it or bin it” approach at the mountain, thanks to his 598-point championship lead over nearest rival van Gisbergen.
The huge buffer means he can crash out in the next two rounds and still conceivably lead the series.
Holden star David Reynolds was among the big names to miss out on the shootout, finishing 22nd-fastest.
And IndyCar drivers and wildcard entries James Hinchcliffe and Alex Rossi will start their first Great Race from second last on the 26-strong grid.