On Ford Australia’s saddest day, Supercars driver Chaz Mostert gave the Falcon faithful something to cheer about at Mount Panorama.
The same day Ford Australia’s factories closed their doors for the last time, Falcon driver Mostert managed to provide Bathurst 1000 qualifying’s feel-good story.
One year after his horror qualifying crash, Mostert topped the timesheets for most of Friday’s 40-minute session before being relegated to fourth in a frenzied finish.
Holden’s Jamie Whincup – four-time Bathurst winner – claimed provisional pole.
Mostert might have missed top spot ahead of Saturday’s top-10 shootout which will determine the front of the grid for Sunday’s Great Race.
Yet he still achieved plenty.
The Ford gun finally exorcised his demons 12 months after his spectacular qualifying crash on the mountain.
Mostert’s 2015 Bathurst title defence was abruptly ended after he broke his leg and was airlifted to hospital following his spectacular qualifying crash.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mostert said.
“This time last year, I just got reminded that I was carted off in an ambulance and, this time, I qualified for the top-10 shootout – pretty stoked.
“Twelve months since the big crash and all the people that have backed me all the way, I can’t really thank them enough.”
It marked the first time Mostert had officially completed Bathurst qualifying in his fourth Mount Panorama campaign, famously winning the 2014 Great Race from last on the starting grid.
Mostert’s effort provided a silver lining to the dark cloud hanging over Ford on Friday.
About 600 manufacturing workers lost their jobs when Ford Australia closed its factories at Geelong and Broadmeadows in Melbourne’s north, ending 91 years of production.
The two Ford Supercars teams will still race Falcons next year but the brand looks set to disappear by 2018, possibly replaced by Mustangs.
It would mark the end of an era.
Falcons have won the Great Race 14 times since first contesting Bathurst in 1967, beginning their famous rivalry with Holden.
Ford factory workers are believed to be driving in a convoy to Mount Panorama this weekend to salute the Falcon.
Ford’s No.1 driver Mark Winterbottom – the series defending champion – hoped to provide a fitting send-off.
“It is emotional,” Winterbottom said.
“It would be nice to send the Falcon out on the high it deserves.”
Former Bathurst champion Winterbottom was seventh fastest ahead of the shootout.
“We’ll tune her up and try and get a little bit better and see if we can start somewhere up the front,” he said.