Scott McLaughlin surged to the fastest ever Supercars lap of Hidden Valley in the third and final practice session at the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown.
McLaughlin was the man to catch for the bulk of the 45 minute session, moving to the top with a 1:05.65s midway through before improving to 1:05.56s five minutes from the flag.
The times were well under the practice lap record of 1:06.03s set by Craig Lowndes last year, which Jamie Whincup had only narrowly missed to top Practice 2 yesterday.
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“The track was a little bit cooler than yesterday and what it probably will be in qualifying,” said McLaughlin, who will be shooting for Shell V-Power's seventh straight pole today.
“We ran a set of tyres there to get a feel for qualifying and we went ok.
“We did the 5.6s on a set left over from yesterday and then had another crack on the greens.”
David Reynolds improved late to be second, 0.18s adrift of McLaughlin, while reigning Saturday Hidden Valley winner Michael Caruso put his Nissan third.
Craig Lowndes and Fabian Coulthard completed the top five – the latter losing a potentially faster final lap to traffic.
Whincup was sixth while team-mate Shane van Gisbergen mirrored his Practice 2 result of ninth.
The Kiwi complained that there’d been something “broken” in his car yesterday as he struggled for front-end feel.
Analysis from the team overnight revealed no broken or wrongly installed parts but, after set-up changes, a tight-lipped van Gisbergen shrugged off the issue after Practice 3.
“It’s good, we’ll just see where we are in qualy,” he said.
“We didn’t go all out there. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens in qualy. It feels better than yesterday.”
Prodrive again missed the top 10 with all four cars, Chaz Mostert proving its faster driver in 11th.
Mark Winterbottom was buried down in 20th after struggling for a balance on his qualifying simulation run at the end.
“We just made the car slower as the session went on. We had a lot of understeer and it was really hard to drive,” he said.
“The track is a lot cooler now than it will be in three and a half hours time so that’ll change how it handles.”
Tekno's Will Davison had bigger issues, completing just four laps before spending the bulk of the session in the garage with a gearbox issue.
“We changed the transaxle last night and there was a little issue with the one that went in,” he explained.
“It’s not ideal, it’s an important session this morning, but we’re confident we’ll be alright in qualifying.”
Qualifying is set to take place from 1350 local time.