Coulthard: "It will be the biggest lap of my life"
Repco Supercars Championship
By V8 Supercars
The infamous Mount Panorama bites hard, really hard, just ask V8 Supercars Champion Jamie Whincup.
The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 was turned on its head in one of the craziest qualifying sessions that claimed the cars of Whincup and another favoured contender David Reynolds.
No-one knows more just how cruel the mountain can be than Fabian Coulthard. He has had one of the most spectacular and dangerous crashes there on lap one in 2010 and has been in contention many times only to be devastated by its twists.
But the Kiwi, while Whincup and Reynolds stumbled, tamed his beast by taking provisional ARMOR ALL pole position ahead of tomorrow's ARMOR ALL top ten shootout, smashing the qualifying record along the way.
"I feel like I am dragging a monkey on my back," he said of his love-hate relationship with one of the world's most daunting racetracks.
"I am pretty keen to shake it. It is a joint that I have not had a lot of luck in the past. We have always been quick enough but we have had mechanical dramas or we have made mistakes or the strategy hasn't gone our way - hopefully this year is the year."
Coulthard will now have one last shot at sitting on the famed front-row at Bathurst on Sunday.
"It was awesome. The car was phenomenal," said Coulthard.
"To have the outright qualifying lap record at the moment is pretty cool. It takes a bit to get me excited but I am pretty pumped by that.
"(But) I am not sure it is enough. I think in the shootout tomorrow you may see it tumble again as the grip gets better and better.
"It will be the biggest lap of my life as the last car of the 10. I will know what the rest have done by then. I am confident our car is good for doing it in that lat. We didn't go out in the last run so we have saved a set (of tyres) for tomorrow."
A second Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen was second in qualifying with under-rated Dale Wood crashing into third on the very last lap with just seconds remaining.
Defending Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 Champion Mark Winterbottom - who broke the lap earlier in the day in practice was in fifth. Volvo's Scott McLaughlin, Coulthard's team-mate Jason Bright, Jeld-Wen Racing's Jack Perkins, Nissan's James Moffat, HRTs Garth Tander and Red Bull's Craig Lowndes completed the top 10.
And some big names missed out - James Courtney 11th when pushed out by Wood in the dying seconds and Chaz Mostert 14th - as well as Whincup and Reynolds.
Whincup and Reynolds will start from the very back of the grid in Sunday's race. No-one has won from there. If anyone was a chance many would vote for Whincup.
They crashed within laps of each other during qualifying, Whincup in the cutting on the way up and Reynolds on the top of the mountain. It means neither completed qualifying and also the chance to appear in tomorrow's fabled ARMOR ALL Top Ten Shootout.
"It did feel like a big hit. I heard a big crunch in the front end, I haven't had a big hit for a while so maybe I'm getting soft - it felt big, but looking at the car it's not as big as I first made out," Whincup said of one of the very few times he has not made the top ten in qualifying.
"I was already disappointed before I hit the wall. I thought 'I'm going in here, what an idiot, what am I doing? This is amateur stuff'. I expect more of myself from that.
"Hey, that's the way it goes. We're cool. It's what you do now that's the most important thing. It's how teams and people react when the chips are down, so we'll see this as a challenge to try and get back up again.
"I won't go making any big statements like that (that it's possible to win the race from the back). We'll try and let the driving and our performance do the talking it's going to be extremely difficult, but I've got so much confidence in the crew."
Reynolds shared the sentiment.
"That's racing unfortunately - it's the biggest race of the year but it's also the longest race of the year so we've got to look at the positives," Reynolds said.
"People can win this from last - I definitely think I can, and I definitely have the car to make it happen, Hopefully it's not too bad, the boys can fix it and we can get it out tomorrow."
There are bigger implications for Whincup if he and team-mate Paul Dumbrell, who are already Bathurst winners, as he also protects a Championship lead with 300 points on the line Sunday
Starting order for the top 10 on the grid on Sunday will be decided in tomorrow's ARMOR ALL Top 10 Shootout at 5.10pm local time. A final practice session starts at 10.20am.