Photo: DJR Team Penske

McLaughlin and Mostert sweep up Melbourne pole positions

The grids have been set for this weekend’s four Melbourne 400 Supercars Championship races at Albert Park after individual qualifying sessions highlighted the first two days.

Ahead of this evening’s first race of the round, qualifying was staged over Thursday and Friday afternoon at the Albert Park circuit to set the grid for the four races.

Race 3 Qualifying
The first of the four ten-minute sessions saw the whole field go out for one big tilt at pole at the start of the session with all of the fastest laps set on the first flying lap.

As it was the last time out in Adelaide and for most of the last two years, Scott McLaughlin launched the #17 Shell V-Power Racing Ford onto pole, breaking the lap record with a time of 1:53.8280.

Such was his pace that no one else put in a sub-1:54, his team-mate Coulthard finished the session in second, nearly four-tenths down, with Cam Waters and Will Davison making it an
all-Ford top four.

Shane van Gisbergen, Tim Slade, Jamie Whincup, Nick Percat, James Courtney and Mark Winterbottom made up the top ten, while the biggest loser was undoubtedly Chaz Mostert. On a quick first lap, his time was deleted due to a breach of track limits. As he started his second and final timed lap, he ran too deep into Turn 1, ruining any chance at pole and winding up 24th on the grid.

The weekend’s first race will begin at 5:55pm local time on Friday 15th March and will be the 999th race in Supercars/Australian Touring Car Championship history.

Race 4 Qualifying
With a short turnaround from the first and second qualifying sessions, only minimal changes were made ahead of the second ten minute shoot-out.

Just like it was in the previous session, only one timed lap was notched up for most of the field, with McLaughlin again ending up on the top spot though his pace was down compared to his last pole.

Showing just what pace he had, Mostert put himself into second on the grid, only 0.0128 behind McLaughlin, with Whincup third, still within a tenth from the pole-sitter’s time.

Waters and Coulthard again starred in the top five, with Davison only just outside, ending the session in sixth ahead of Erebus Motorsports’ David Reynolds and Anton de Pasquale, with
Tim Slade and Mark Winterbottom again ending up in the top ten.

Race 5 Qualifying
The weekend’s third qualifying session kicked off just after the first free practice for Formula One, the track all gripped up thanks to the Pirelli rubber laid down.

The theme of the weekend was first laps being the quickest and yet again, McLaughlin was the quickest out of the box, his 1:53.9990 the only lap below a 1:54 and over half a second
clear of the next car to take his 50th career pole.

Brad Jones Racing driver Tim Slade massively improved on his second run, jumping up from 21st to third on his second timed lap as Triple Eights Shane van Gisbergen tired to improve on his first run, failing to do so and qualifying in 13th.

McLaughlin, Waters, Slade, Percat, Coulthard, Whincup, Mostert, de Pasquale, Reynolds and James Courtney made up the top ten ahead of the small break until the last qualifying session
of the round.

Race 6 Qualifying
Final qualifying kicked off just after 2pm local time and a majority of the field left the lane at the start of the session.

McLaughlin and Whincup traded fastest sectors throughout the opening lap but a scrappy last sector for the latter put McLaughlin on provisional pole as the rest of the pack completed
their laps.

Coulthard and van Gisbergen were the biggest names to bail on their first timed laps, coming in to the pits and returning to the track later for clear air.

Mostert went out for another go, posting a 1:54.2783 to take pole position away from McLaughlin albeit by 0.0872 of a second.

The Tickford driver’s time stood until the end of the session, giving him his first pole since the Gold Coast in 2017 and making it an all-Ford front row with Whincup again nibbling at
the heels of the pole-sitters.

Waters, van Gisbergen, Davison, Winterbottom, Coulthard, Slade and Holdsworth all finished inside the top ten, putting all six Mustangs near the top of the order.

The first race of the weekend begins at 5:55pm local time today with two races being the feature of Saturday. Race two, the Saturday sprint, will be the 1000th in Supercars/ATCC history, starting at 12:50pm while the second last race goes green at 6:30pm.

The last race of the weekend will be the last action on track before Formula One kicks off with the Supercars hitting the track at 1:35pm on Sunday.