Reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen starts the 2017 Supercars championship as the one to catch after topping the first qualifying session of the year ahead of the opening Clipsal 500 race in Adelaide.
Pole position will be decided tomorrow morning with a Top 10 Shootout following a change of format in 2017 that sees Clipsal run back over its traditional 2x250km race formula but a Top 10 Shootout for both races.
“I’m pretty glad I went to the toilet before qualifying,” van Gisbergen joked.
“It feels really good to be up here. The car didn’t feel great this morning. I was fast but we didn’t have any balance. Now it’s fast and comfortable.”
“It’s much better to have a year under my belt. Last year I was still learning people’s names so it makes [McLaughlin]’s performance even more impressive. He’s going to be tough to beat later in the year.”
It was the most minute margin separating the Red Bull Holden driver and second placed Scott McLaughlin in his first appearance at DJR Team Penske – van Gisbergen’s time of 1:19.7806s just 0.0001s better than his fellow countryman.
Third was Nissan’s Rick Kelly, with Walkinshaw Racing’s James Courtney Chaz Mostert, Fabian Coulthard, Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, Cam Waters and David Reynolds rounding out the top 10.
McLaughlin said the attention on DJR Team Penske following his arrival and their high-profile engineering recruit Ludo Lacroix, who came from Triple Eight Engineering, has been a surprise.
“It’s interesting that people are worried about us. We’ve got a lot to do to be consistent,” McLaughlin said.
“It’s a testament to our sport. We’ve got the toughest touring car category in the world and that qualifying session shows it.”
Debutants Simona De Silvestro from Nissan Motorsport and 16-year-old Alex Rullo at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport ended the session in third last and last.
Tomorrow’s Top 10 Shootout takes place at 12:00pm Adelaide time with the first of two 78-lap races for the weekend from 3:20pm.
Picture courtesy of Rhys Vandersyde and InSyde Media.