The big boys really came out to play during a thrilling qualifying session for Race 30 in Newcastle as Shane van Gisbergen earned pole position with Red Bull locking out the front row of the grid.
Van Gisbergen’s lap of 1:10.6430 was enough to edge out Scott McLaughlin as just 0.1263secs separated the top four in qualifying.
Crucially for SVG, it will be Jamie Whincup alongside him at the front of the grid, with McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard backing them up in P3 and P4.
“The car was awesome,” said Van Gisbergen after qualifying. “This is step one but the race is where it counts.
“We’re all feeling the pressure but its why we love this sport. We’ve got a lot to do this afternoon and tomorrow but it’s all good. Thanks to the team and the cars are good this weekend.”
Van Gisbergen was on maximum attack from the start, and it showed. He was using every inch of tarmac, brushing his wing mirrors against the wall after nearly every turn.
Much has been made of the impact the teammates at Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske will have on the destination for the championship this weekend and Whincup and Coulthard were well aware of the roles required of them.
Like the two Kiwis, they flew around the track from the offset as the top four were separated by just 0.008sec at one point during qualifying.
It was a real tug-of-war effort as Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin traded blows throughout but it was the 2016 champion who drew first blood.
SVG’s stunning lap led the way going into the final run and the Red Bulls decided to then play the psychological battle with the No. 17 car as they followed him out to put the pressure on.
But it was too much for the series leader as he struggled in changing conditions meaning Holden fans could breathe a little easier.
“That was tough, I hit the wall a number of times,” McLaughlin said afterwards. “It was a lot easier to drive yesterday.
“We made a couple of changes that weren’t right and we need to look at it. We’re not far away though.”
So it’s SVG v McLaughlin, Triple Eight v DJR Team Penske, Holden v Ford at the front. Race 30 could be a cracker.