2010 V8 Supercars champion James Courtney will start the third and final Clipsal 500 race from pole-position for the Holden Racing Team after topping a staggeringly close top-ten shootout.

Courtney, who set the third quickest time in the previous session, which decides the top-ten contenders for the final shootout, clocked a 1 minute 20.5396 lap around the Adelaide street circuit to deny the then provisional pole-sitter Fabian Coulthard the perfect follow up to his Saturday race two success.

The Holden Racing driver's fate was then left in the hands of Nissan's James Moffat and the initial Q3 pacesetter Shane Van Gisbergen. Both came close with their one-lap efforts but such was the tightness of the pack Van Gisbergen and Moffat could fare no better than fifth and sixth.

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Keen to make up for his race two disaster, defending champion Jamie Whincup placed his Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore onto the second row of the grid ahead of Volvo's Scott McLaughlin in fourth.

Although Courtney grabbed the pole, the session's standout performance came from the returning Marcos Ambrose after the DJR Team Penske driver heroically hauled his improved Ford Falcon FG X up the order to qualify in an impressive eighth position. Ambrose shares the fourth row with the seventh placed Tim Slade.

Ambrose, however, has given his mechanics some work to do before the final Clipsal encounter when the former double-champion grazed the wall on his slowing down lap, causing some slight damage to the left hand side of his car.

Garth Tander and Jason Bright both struggled to find the optimum of their Holden Commodores as they completed the top ten on the fifth row.