Kiwi flyer Jason Richards has had one dress rehearsal, now he is ready for the main act after emerging as the dark horse at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 for the second year running.
The New Zealand born 33-year-old took provisional pole position for the big Sunday race with his co-driver Cam McConville, needing tomorrow to nail a top-ten shootout lap to finish the same job he started 12 months ago at the same place.
Richards will go last in the top-ten shootout tomorrow afternoon as the fastest qualifier so far. Behind him today were Garth Tander, Lee Holdsworth, Mark Winterbottom, Paul Dumbrell, Craig Lowndes, Shane Van Gisbergen, Todd Kelly, Russell Ingall and Greg Murphy.
With the weight of huge expectation on his shoulders last year Richards wavered slightly in the race for pole position. He still managed sixth on the grid and an incredible second in the race, vowing to go one better on Sunday.
“To be honest it was really the first time I'd felt so much pressure,” Richards said of this time last year when he teamed up with Murphy in an all-Kiwi outfit. “The weight of expectation was through the roof. I was tense in the car the whole way around which is not the way I like to be. This time will be different.”
Nelson-born Richards produced a terrific qualifying lap today along with some luck. Race favourites Lowndes (Jamie Whincup) and Tander (Will Davison) both were on target to beat the time but for unforeseen obstacles in their way.
First it was Lowndes who was within sight of the finish line when a red flag dropped to end the session and Tander was also on a flyer before being slightly held up by a second Ford Performance Racing car driven by Dean Canto.
“We saved everything we had for the end of qualifying and were looking at a top three times at least but the red flag ended that,” explained Lowndes. “On a positive note, we know the car has the goods and our tyres are in good shape.
“We still have a couple of spots to work on across the top of the mountain but I am very pleased with where we are at this stage of the event. I'm looking forward to the shootout tomorrow where I feel we can put together a very good flying lap.”
But both still sit firmly in the Top Ten for a one-lap shot again tomorrow.
“We didn't want to peak too early, we'll get there in the end,” Tander said.