Despite setting the second-quickest time in a nail-biting Clipsal 500 Top Ten Shoot-out, Mark Winterbottom will start only ninth for Saturday's first V8 Supercar race of the year.
The Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon recovered from a testing practice session earlier in the day, when he was lapping 15th fastest, to set a blistering pace in the afternoon's qualifying, but officials penalised him for using too much kerb on the entry to turn four during his one-lap shoot-out effort, relegating him to ninth. Winterbottom was not alone either, with Holden's Lee Holdsworth similarly affected.
"I'm obviously very disappointed and am hoping the review will come out in my favour," Frosty admitted, aware that the stewards were sitting on the decision, "As far as I'm concerned, we're not ninth, we're second fastest and ninth by default."
Winterbottom was joined by Holdsworth's team owner, Garry Rogers, in accusing the officials of changing the rule halfway through the shoot-out.
“We were told the kerb and now they are saying that they said the yellow line, but we had a whole team that was here when we were told what the rule was and we were clearly told the kerb,” Rogers told the official V8 Supercars
website, referring to the limits that the stewards were allowing drivers to go to.
“You just can't change a rule to suit the moment. It's unfortunate, [and] no-one likes this type of situation, but there is a lot at stake here. We try to play by the book of rules and we try to do it fairly and yet we have been disadvantaged because of that.”
Both teams indicated that they would attempt to get the judgement overturned, but Winterbottom sought additional solace in the fact that his car had changed so much between sessions.
"The car is massively improved since this morning and that's the most important thing. To go from 18th to battling for pole is a great job by everyone. It just goes to show that we're not looking for a lot when we have problems - just find a little bit here and there and it gets you back up the front.
"It's a lot easier to pass here than anywhere else, and you can win from anywhere here because it's such a long race. If one guy has a long fuel stop, you can get from eighth to the lead, so we're not looking for a lot really."
Winterbottom's team-mate, Steve Richards, saw his Castrol Falcon also made great improvements from early practice, but just missed out on a shoot-out place by a fraction of a second.