Jamie Whincup will start the first race of the MSS Security V8 Supercar Challenge at the 2012 Formula 1 QANTAS Australian Grand Prix from pole position, after a dominant performance in qualifying.
The TeamVodafone driver was in fine form on Thursday, topping the opening practice session and finishing second in Practice 2, before turning in a qualifying masterclass to end the opening day of action at Albert Park.
Whincup set his time early in the 30-minute session and finished an imposing 0.4843s clear of the field, with his 1:55.0805 laptime almost a second faster than the qualifying record set by his team-mate Craig Lowndes 12 months ago. Such was his dominance, he spent the majority of the final 10 minutes in pitlane.
This weekend’s format includes V8 Supercars’ traditional Control Tyre and the softer Sprint Tyre. Teams have three sets of the Sprint Tyres to use across qualifying and the four races.
“It’s a really good feeling on the soft tyres around here, especially in the night, the grip level’s massive,” Whincup said.
“My car was great. I predicted pretty well how much grip was out there and got a pretty clean lap in.
“Once again, the category’s done a good job of spicing it up. None of us know what tyres we’re going to run in the qualifying race, and you’ve got to ration them through until Sunday. There are going to be guys with all different strategies.
“Hopefully it keeps clean, we don’t have any write-offs, but we’re all going to be out there going as hard as we can.”
Having topped Practice 2, Mark Winterbottom was Whincup’s closest challenger, with Shane van Gisbergen, championship leader Will Davison and Lowndes completing the top six.
“You go from the hard tyre to the soft tyre and it’s massively different in speed. I went to Turn 1, jumped on the brakes and then accelerated because I braked too early!” Winterbottom said of the dual tyre format.
“With a second set of tyres, we could’ve had a good crack at it, but in the grand scheme of it, first or second, it’s much of a muchness.”
Last year’s Albert Park winner, Garth Tander will start from seventh, ahead of Tony D’Alberto, David Reynolds, Michael Caruso and Rick Kelly. In just his second race meeting aboard a V8 Supercar, French driver Alexandre Prémat was a notable 14th for Garry Rogers Motorsport.
The MSS Security V8 Supercar Challenge kicks off the Friday program at Albert Park, with a 13-lap qualifying race starting at 11:00am. In a unique format, the bottom three cars at the completion of each lap between Laps 3 and 8 will be dropped from the field, with 10 cars to fight it out for the final five laps.
The race will determine the starting grid for Race 2 of the weekend, which kicks off at 2:20pm. Races on Saturday and Sunday will complete the program.