McLaughlin tops qualifying in Ipswich
NOT even losing his best lap to the current scourge of Supercars qualifying could deny Scott McLaughlin from his 10th pole position of 2017.
The championship leader topped qualifying for Race 15 at the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint ahead of a resurgent Craig Lowndes, McLaughlin's 1min 08.817sec lap the fastest a Supercar has ever done around Queensland Raceway.
He could very well have gone faster on his final flyer; instead, McLaughlin came within an ace of turning his Shell Falcon into a ball of scrap metal.
The Shell V-Power Racing team released McLaughlin earlier than much of the rest of the field, starting a fast lap only to find the bulk of the 30-car pack filing slowly around the track preparing for their own final runs.
McLaughlin kept the throttle pinned down the back straight, rushing past seven weaving cars at warp speed on his way to the fastest first sector time, but his luck wouldn't hold.
He rushed past three more cars before the sight of Alex Davison's weaving car on the approach to turn four spooked McLaughlin into aborting the lap.
"I was a bit nervous coming through the pack," he said. "I got through the first straight, and then the second straight, it was just too sketchy to keep pressing on.
"A bit annoying, but it is what it is. We still got pole, which we were very lucky for."
Davison, who qualified 29th, avoided any penalty after Supercars deputy race director Michael Masi ruled that he was not wholly responsible for causing the incident.
Lowndes outqualified both his Triple Eight teammates for the first time in 2017 to achieve his first front-row start since the series visited Ipswich last year.
One-lap speed has been a problem for Lowndes following the introduction of Dunlop's new construction of tyre for this year, but missed his first pole position since 2015 by a scant 0.009 of a second.
"It's great for Scotty; I just wish he would have braked earlier and given me a pole!" the veteran joked.
"But it's great to be at the front row. Considering this season, this has been our achilles heel, this part of the weekend, it's looking much better.
"I don't know if we've completely unlocked (the tyre everywhere), but we've definitely unlocked it for here."
Chaz Mostert and Tim Slade, the fastest drivers in practice and the first two members of the 'eight' club, line up on the second row for Race 15.
Appropriately, the first eight cars dipped into the 1:08 barrier during qualifying, with Mark Winterbottom, Rick Kelly, Shane van Gisbergen and Michael Caruso all gaining their admittance to the exclusive club.
Jamie Whincup barely missed punching his ticket by 0.006 of a second to line up ninth, with Cameron Waters rounding out the top 10.
Fabian Coulthard failed to match his practice form and will line up from 14th, one spot behind old teammate Jason Bright on an all-Ford seventh row.
Todd Hazelwood continued his impressive start to the weekend to be the best qualified of the four wildcards in 20th, four spots ahead of Jack Le Brocq, with James Golding 25th and Shae Davies 26th.
Saturday afternoon's Race 15 is 39 laps.