PHILLIP ISLAND, Victoria, Australia — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — V8SC photo —
Day One qualifying for the Plus Fitness Phillip Island 400 saw a rookie looking to rekindle some magic and a veteran looking to cement his place in history split the ARMOR All Pole Awards for Races 33 and 34 of the 2014 season.
Volvo Polestar Racing’s Scott McLaughlin flashed across the start-finish line in the final seconds of the first 10 minute qualifying session with a blistering time of 1:31.3935 seconds to knock off the Red Bull duo of Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup from the top of the time sheet.
The pole is McLaughlin’s ninth career V8 Supercars ARMOR ALL pole, as well as his ninth of the season.
“I’m trying my hardest, we can’t win the championship but we can definitely win (poles and races),” McLaughlin said following his run. “The best way to win races is to start from the pole and we’ve done that a few times, we just have to win races now.”
Lowndes, who is looking to break Mark Skaife’s record for most wins at Phillip Island (both have 9 coming into the weekend), said he was jsut missing a little bit at the end of the session to improve his lap any.
“We just need to settle the rear down a little bit,” Lowndes explained. “The track was coming towards us at the end, but if we get a bit more rear stability the car will get (even) faster for the race.”
Mark Winterbottom, second in championship points coming into the weekend, qualified fourth for race 33 and Michael Caruso rounded out the top five.
Whincup then took a giant step towards securing his sixth International V8 Supercars Championship crown during the second half of qualifying, which set the field for Race 34 at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.
Whincup clocked an even faster lap of 1:31.0578 seconds during that 10-minute session to claim the pole for the second 100 km event, grabbing his ninth pole of 2014 as well and deadlocking him again with McLaughlin for the season-long ARMOR ALL Pole Award.
That pole was Whincup’s record extending 60th career V8SC pole, and he will start ahead of Winterbottom, Lowndes, Todd Kelly (making his 200th event start this weekend) and Caruso in race two.
While times were set on top of the pylon, however, drama was swirling at the bottom of it as Fabian Coulthard and Shane van Gisbergen’s crews rushed to repair their machines. The pair got together on the first lap of session one at the exit of turn one.
Coulthard was warming up his tires and moved right, causing van Gisbergen to think Coulthard was pulling aside to let him by. The dive to the inside led to contact, which damaged both cars and ultimately saw both drivers unable to record times in the session.
The contact could have serious points implications. Van Gisbergen is third in the Championship standings coming into the weekend, while Coulthard is fifth.
Races 33 and 34 begin at 2:30 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. local time.