March 13, 2014 — V8 Supercars photo — MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA — Michael Caruso secured his first V8 Supercars pole position and clinched Nissan’s first start from P1 on the grid in the V8 Supercars Championship during Thursday qualifying for the MSS Security/Rolex V8 Supercars Challenge.
After showing pace in practice earlier in the day, Caruso rang a lap of 1:55.8313 out of his newly-colored Norton-sponsored Altima and went unchallenged in the session, the only driver to record a time in the ‘55’ second bracket at Albert Park.
“I’ve got to admit it’s pretty unexpected; we had pretty good pace in practice,” Caruso, who is running #300 this weekend, said. “This is my very first pole position so everyone’s very happy. Very proud.”
“We’ve been working pretty hard over the last few months to slowly work our way up the field,” Caruso added, speaking of his team. “Since the introduction of Car of the Future the level of competition has narrowed a lot. On any given weekend, anybody can win and we sort of saw it last year with a record number of winners. It just shows how competitive this category is.”
“If you do a good job each weekend you could be anywhere between first and tenth. Don’t get me wrong the person in tenth is still doing a bloody good job; it’s just that close and the times are so close.”
Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen will start second, with Scott McLaughlin and five-time champion Jamie Whincup, the man McLaughlin sensationally beat for second on the final lap in race two in Adelaide, making up Row Two.
Nissan, which won its first race at Winton last year courtesy of James Moffatt (Caruso finished second in that event) has had an aerodynamic reshape in the off-season which appears to be paying handsome dividends.
It was a strong open to the weekend for the Japanese marque, with three of their four cars placing in the top 10 – Jack Daniel’s Racing driver Todd Kelly completed the top five.
Craig Lowndes, last year’s event winner Fabian Coulthard, Moffat, Jason Bright in a newly built Commodore after his spectacular Adelaide crash, and Garth Tander, complete the top 10. Chaz Mostert was the fastest Ford, qualifying 12th, and former V8 Supercar Champion Rick Kelly, also in a Nissan, qualified in 14th. Clipsal 500 winner James Courtney timed in at 21st overall.
Caruso topped the final practice session before qualifying. Caruso was second in the earlier session, but jumped to the top of the times with a 1:56.2358 second lap, the fastest time recorded at that point. Tim Slade topped the first 30-minute practice session of the event in his Supercheap Auto Commodore.
Race One will begin at 11.05am tomorrow. After that, accumulated points will set the grid for the following three races.