Reigning V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander gave Toll HRT team-mate Mark Skaife and the works Holden team a chance of a rare double when he claimed pole position for Sunday's Supercheap Bathurst 1000.

After quietly going about their business in the week leading up to the 48th running of the Mount Panorama event, Tander scorched his way to pole with a lap of 2min 07.29secs. Remarkably, despite it being his 15th career pole, it was his first at Bathurst.

Tander and Skaife, who won the season's first enduro, the L&H 500 at Phillip Island, edged out Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards' Ford Performance Racing Falcon, with James Courtney with David Besnard third for Stone Brother Racing.

Tander was sixth out in the Top Ten Shoot-out, but emerged from the shadows with a superb run made more difficult after dirt was dropped on the track from an earlier incident.

"It was a tough Shoot-out because I did not know how hard to push down through Forest Elbow because of the dirt and junk that was on the track," Tander confirmed, "I knew I had to do a strong last sector though, because the track would clean up as the Shoot-out went on. It was that last sector that got us out of jail.

"We were happy to move up to the second row, but anywhere forward of there was a bonus. We're obviously very happy to be starting on pole but, ten laps into tomorrow's race, I'm not to sure if anyone will care where they all started."

Veteran team-mate Mark Skaife, chasing his sixth victory on the Mountain, said there was no more pressure than usual on the pairing, despite Tander leading the championship.

"Whenever we race, we have the weight of expectation of Holden fans and Holden itself to do our best, and that's what we will do," Skaife said.

Winterbottom, who stole fastest time in Friday's qualifying session, tried to claim the pole with a last-ditch effort, recovering from a poor start to go ahead of Tander at the second time check, but ultimately had to settle for second place, just 13/100ths of a second back.

"When you start down, there's really no excuse," 'Frosty' insisted, "I tried too hard and made a mistake. I lost three or fourth tenths at the start and at turn one. But we've started on the front row the last three years and we take a lot of pride in that."

FPR team-mate Steven Richards, however, said the front row position was no assurance of success on Sunday.

"To tell the truth, pole position means absolutely nothing," he claimed, "I've been fortunate enough to win this race from 15th...."

Third place went to the Jeld-Wen Ford of Courtney and Besnard after the SBR regular hauled the car up the order in the Shoot-out.

"There's two ways that you can approach the Shoot-out," Courtney claimed, "You can cruise around at eight-tenths and put in a safe lap, or you can take your family jewels, hang them on the off the rear vision mirror and have a go... that's the option I went for!

"The car was great across the top of the Mountain and down the other side, I just couldn't get the most out of it in the first a last corners. But it's a good, comfortable car to drive, and we won't need to do much to it tonight."

Fourth was claimed by Paul Dumbrell, who will now team with Rick Kelly for Sunday's race after the former champion's #15 entry was trashed in a might impact with co-driver Paul Radisich at the wheel.

The team was not able to repair the car in time for the Shoot-out but officials granted Kelly special dispensation to move to the HSV Dealer Team's second car to partner Dumbrell when it became clear that scheduled co-driver David Reynolds would also not be fit enough to race. The youngster has been on a drip all weekend with a viral infection.

"As I have said all weekend, that car is really good!" Dumbrell pointed out, "It is really secure and it is actually quite easy to drive. Looking at the lap after the top ten, it looked how it felt, we weren't ragged and it looked like an ideal lap.

"Rick sat in the car for the first time only a moment ago, however, so we have a bit of work ahead of ourselves. We need to make sure we are both comfortable and understand what we both like in the car and then get ready for the race."

Radisich, meanwhile, broke his right ankle and dislocated his left in the morning practice incident at Skyline.

"I have mixed emotions at the moment," Kelly admitted, "Obviously, I am a little upset about what happened this morning. I am very close to 'The Rat', and to see that sort of thing happen is a bit tough for us. At the moment, our thoughts are with him and not so much on the race. The main priority for us is to make sure he is okay.

"On the other hand, it is great to have the opportunity to still participate in the race with Paul [Dumbrell], and I am pretty stoked about that. It was a tough couple of hours in the garage changing drivers around and that sort of thing and I am pretty impressed with the job that PD did in the shootout. To have a team-mate change and see a car getting ripped apart next to you - and a bloke injured in one of our sister cars - is a tough thing to do, so I am pretty impressed with that qualifying position."

Defending Bathurst champions Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes slipped back to fifth in the Shoot-out but, far from being disappointed, the duo will be hoping that a third successive start from the third row of the grid will aid them in their quest for a third consecutive win on the Mountain. Whincup's time was seven tenths off Tander.

"It was certainly not the lap I would have liked," Whincup admitted, "I over-drove, pushed a little too hard and didn't get a good enough flow going. But we are still in good shape for tomorrow. That was my first ever Bathurst qualifying and it was still a good experience."

Jason Richards and Greg Murphy, having been second overnight, slipped back to sixth, in the Shoot-out, despite Richards getting closer than anyone to breaking his team-mate's outright lap record.

Rising to the challenge issued by Murphy in the run-up to the race, the Sprint Gas Racing driver recorded the second fastest lap in Bathurst history, coming within four-hundredths of the 2003 target during morning practice.

"It is an awesome feeling knowing that you are a contender - the Sprint Gas Commodore is a jet," Richards said, "You come to any event hoping to win, rather than making up the numbers and, prior to the event, we believed we were always in with a chance. The reality is we can win it.

"To get so close to 'Murph''s amazing lap time feels fantastic too. When you get close to it, you realise how good that time actually is. I've never driven such an impressive race car, and it gives you so much confidence. However, while having the two drivers with the fastest ever Bathurst lap times driving together is nice, it won't win us the race. We've still got a little bit of work to do.

"When we led this morning's session with such a fast time, I thought we were in with a great chance to start on the front row, and, if I'd been able to get more heat into the tyres, I would have been faster in the Shoot-out, for sure. I was only a couple of tenths down after the first two sectors, but lost too much in the third sector.

Will Davison and Steven Johnson will line up seventh in the best of the Jim Beam Racing cars, ahead of Supercheap's Russell Ingall and Paul Morris and Glenfords Racing's Fabian Coulthard and Alex Davison.

"Today was good," Ingall insisted, "Even if we'd done a 'blinder' lap, we'd have only been another row up to sixth, so I'm happy with today's performance. We've moved up a couple spots and the car's still in one piece. I was looking at a few of the other cars in the Shoot-out and they were messy. Apart from Tander's, our Commodore was the second best handling car."

The WOW Racing duo of Max Wilson and Brad Jones, which was allowed into the Shoot-out once it became clear that HSV was not going to get the #15 Commodore back on track, rounded out the top ten.

"With the last minute inclusion of the WOW car in the Top Ten Shoot-out, we were always going to be at a disadvantage," team boss Kim Jones admitted, "We had no 'green' tyres for this session, but Max drove an excellent lap and returned a clean car with all it's corners. A top ten position to start the 'big race' tomorrow is what we've been planning for."

With the Holden of Paul Weel withdrawn from the race after his crash with Chris Pither on Friday, the field will number 27 at the start if the latter's Team Kiwi Racing is successful in rebuilding the 'All Black Ford' overnight.



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