TeamVodafone drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes debuted their brand new Triple Eight Race Engineering-designed and built Fords in the best possible fashion at Adelaide's Clipsal 500, with Whincup taking pole position and Lowndes qualifying second after the Top Ten Shoot-out.
Under the new regulations, Friday's qualifying results will stand for both 250km legs of the 500, regardless of the drivers' finishing positions in tomorrow's race, allowing Whincup, the reigning V8 Supercar champion, to begin his 2009 title defence in the best possible fashion. Picking up where he left off, he set two new lap records in the first two phases of qualifying, before going on to take pole position in the dramatic shoot-out.
“I am very, very happy,” Whincup beamed, “With a brand new car and changes to the track, we were playing with the unknown out there today, so this result is especially satisfying.
"The new car is completely different to last years, so I had to stop trying to make it like the BF. Once I did that, we really found a good direction to go in. This is the best possible start to my championship defence and, now that qualifying is out of the way, we will work hard to make sure it is a good, well balanced racecar for tomorrow.”
Team-mate Lowndes finished the second leg of qualifying in seventh place, but jumped a number positions in the shoot-out after producing a 1min 22.0668secs lap when it mattered. Although that was only good enough for fourth on the provisional grid, the veteran was then handed a two-position bonus after both Lee Holdsworth and Mark Winterbottom had their times disqualified for kerb jumping.
“This is a very encouraging start,” Lowndes admitted, “To build brand new cars and come to what is arguably the hardest race of the season and put them both on the front row of the grid is just incredible and a huge credit to the team.
“Qualifying is not traditionally my strong point and, to be honest, that lap was not particularly pretty, but it was within the rules and, as we have seen in the past, the shoot-out always creates some interesting results. While I know qualifying is not always going to go in my favour, it is a good feeling to know I will be starting both races on the front row of the grid.”