Scott McLaughlin has scored his eighth ARMOR ALL Pole Award of the season ahead of Race 13 at the Watpac Townsville 400.
McLaughlin clocked a 1:12.07s best to eclipse previous fast-man Chaz Mostert by 0.26s with seven of the 20 minutes remaining.
The 24-year-old subsequently did not head out for a third and final run, saving a set of tyres as he watched the closing stages unfold from the garage.
Jamie Whincup improved from third to second with his final lap, but fell 0.21s short of the Shell V-Power Ford.
“It was Ludo (Lacroix, engineer) who made the call but I back him 100 percent and back my team 110 percent,” said McLaughlin of sitting out the final minutes.
“I wish I got the lap together. Honestly I did, but there was a few if buts and maybes there and I need to work on that myself.
“(But) we got the pole and I think it’s good. I’m just lucky I have a great car underneath me and a great team behind me in Shell V-Power Racing.”
McLaughlin’s pole ramps up the pressure on team-mate Fabian Coulthard, who will start just ninth after struggling throughout the session.
Coulthard, who leads McLaughlin by just 10 points in the championship, did three runs, sitting 16th after his first, ninth after the second and failing to improve in the dying stages.
“It’s much more comfortable for me today than it was yesterday, I can tell you,” said Coulthard.
“You’re trying to learn a new car in three laps basically. You get three timed laps and three sets of tyres.
“I’m not unhappy with the performance. The boys have done a fantastic job getting the car back up into the 10. We were nowhere near that yesterday.
“It’s all positive and we can move forward from there.”
Prodrive pair Mostert and Cameron Waters still made it three Fords in the top four ahead of Red Bull’s Shane van Gisbergen and Mark Winterbottom in yet another fast Falcon.
Van Gisbergen’s session started with an unusual four-wheel lock-up at Turn 11 while bedding brakes on his warm-up tyres.
Brad Jones Racing’s Nick Percat and Erebus’ David Reynolds share the fourth row ahead of Coulthard and Michael Caruso in the first of the Nissans.
Further back, James Courtney’s top 10 practice pace failed to translate to qualifying, with the former champion 16th, two places behind team-mate Scott Pye.
“I’d like to be able to blame the traffic for being 16th, but it’s not the traffic. Again in qualifying we’re not getting the most out of it. It’s frustrating,” he said.
“Yesterday we were 10th and happy but made some changes overnight and it wasn’t good.
"We managed to jag one lap there at the end and got a midfield position. We’ve got a bit of work to do.
“Turn 2 and anywhere I can’t use the kerb to turn the car is where we’re really struggling with the fronts. It’s frustrating we need more kerbs.”
Craig Lowndes struggled throughout the session and ended up 19th.
The TeamVortex Holden had a near-miss with the back of Jamie Whincup’s slow-moving Triple Eight entry through the high-speed Turn 6 late in the session.
The 200km Race 13 of the season will get underway at 1610 local time.
CLICK HERE for the full Race 13 qualifying result.