Jamie Whincup returned to the forefront of the V8 Supercar Championship with a sensational lap record and pole position for race one of the triple-header Midas 400 at Sandown.
No fewer than 14 drivers broke the previous qualifying record of 1min 10.4430secs set by James Courtney set last year, but it was Whincup that came on top to head a Ford 1-2-3 as he posted the best sub-1min 10secs lap of Sandown in the Team Vodafone Falcon.
Indeed, the erstwhile series points leader was well clear of the rest of the field, as closest rival Mark Winterbottom lagged some three tenths adrift of the #88 machine. 'Frosty' was only just second too, for Will Davison, Rick Kelly and the remarkable Fabien Coulthard all lapped within a tenth of the FPR driver. Winterbottom had started the 1min 9secs efforts rolling with a 1min 09.8891secs lap during session two of the knock-out format, but Whincup went on to beat that with his 1min 09.6987secs pole time.
Davison posted a career-best effort in third place, as did Coulthard in fifth, putting both ahead of veterans Russell Ingall, Steven Richards, Toddy Kelly, Craig Lowndes and Jason Richards, who made up the final phase shoot-out field.
Missing the cut, somewhat surprisingly given his apparent affinity with Sandown, was Courtney, who ironically also broke his previous lap record but not by enough to make it into the top ten. The Jeld-Wen Ford driver thus lines up eleventh, ahead of two other expected frontrunners in the shape of the Toll HRT Holden duo Garth Tander and Mark Skaife, both also beating the old record.
“We had a few issues with traffic in qualifying, and it was pretty hard to find a clear lap," Courtney reported, "We made some changes to the car that we didn't like but, with the way that qualifying is now, you don't have time to change back, so we had to make do with what we had.”