NEWCASTLE, New South Wales, Australia — Scott McLaughlin has the advantage in the championship battle heading into Saturday’s first race at Newcastle. The Kiwi took pole on Saturday morning, having started slowly in the session.
“We didn’t make it easy for ourselves, it was very difficult out there, but yeah, that’s awesome,” McLaughlin said. “Good start, push on now, get a good start going up to the race and what we can do is go fastest and win and see what happens behind us.”
“This weekend’s the most important of the year, and to get pole and be in this position is fantastic.”
The track was bathed in sun, perfect for qualifying. The 20-minute session began a little after 11 a.m. local time, and the entire field took to the track at the start.
Provisional pole changed hands several times early, with the ballpark time being in the 1:10s. Michael Caruso, however, brought it down into the 1:09s in his Nissan with a 1:09.965.
Championship contender Jamie Whincup took to the escape road, but recovered on his next lap to take sixth. David Reynolds ran third in his Erebus Commodore, fighting off symptoms of torn tendons in his left leg, suffered while kickboxing before his Bathurst victory.
McLaughlin was floundering around in sixth at the halfway point, and the Shell V-Power Racing driver got held up in traffic. Tim Blanchard was under investigation for holding McLaughlin up.
Van Gisbergen jumped to pole right at the halfway point with a 1:09.948. McLaughlin was able to move to fourth, while Whincup got up to sixth. Mark Winterbottom ran wide at Turn 12, but kept it off the wall with only time lost.
Fabian Coulthard ran wide at Turn two, needing to take the escape road. Reynolds hung it all out heading into Turn 12, then dove down the inside of Jason Bright at the next corner.
With four minutes left, McLaughlin took pole with a 1:09.9065, 0.0418 seconds over Van Gisbergen. Whincup went to answer back with 2:30 left in the session. He was up on McLaughlin in sector one, down by 0.097 in sector two, and could only get fourth across the line.
Reynolds jumped to second with under 30 seconds left, 0.009 seconds slower than McLaughlin. Whincup was fifth, but McLaughlin had pole for the 15th time this season.
1. Scott McLaughlin
2. David Reynolds
3. Shane Van Gisbergen
4. Michael Caruso
5. Jamie Whincup
6. Rick Kelly
7. Will Davison
8. Fabian Coulthard
9. James Courtney
10. Chaz Mostert