Showing the teamwork that has them bidding for a third-straight Sandown 500, Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell have won an against-the-odds pole for the first endurance V8 Supercars race of the season.
In an elongated qualifying process with separate 20-lap races for co-drivers and regular-series drivers, Dumbrell won the lead and Whincup kept it to give themselves a shot at Sandown history.
Since the race became a 500km affair, no driver has taken three straight victories but the occupants of the No.1 car have given themselves the best chance of doing just that with determined driving.
The two Pepsi Max Falcons led by Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert showed superior pace all weekend leading up to the qualifying races.
The pair gave their co-drivers the front grid for their race only to allow Dumbrell to steal a lead within 90 seconds of their race.
Cameron Waters, 21, couldn’t cash in on his pole position, making an error on the first lap to slip to third place.
Similarly, Winterbottom’s co-driver Steve Owen, complaining of braking issues, was overtaken shortly after to put Dumbrell in front.
When the drivers flipped, neither Winterbottom nor Mostert could find a way past Whincup – with series leader Winterbottom edging his teammate for the front row.
Whincup almost apologised to his Ford rivals.
“PD did all the work this morning … unfortunately, I was a bit of a road block in that race,” he said.
“We’ve got a fair bit of work to do but it was great to be able to maximise today.”
Winterbottom said he was happy enough to be starting second on Sunday, choosing not to make a pass during the qualifying race.
“Tomorrow it’s going to be a different story, I’ll squeeze her in there,” he said.
“You see some guys out there and bumping people and getting drive-throughs and whatever – it’s not worth a penalty for one spot.”
That quote was a less-than-subtle dig at Craig Lowndes, who was served a drive-through penalty for bumping the luckless Jack Perkins.
Lowndes began his race in 12th position, surged to be seventh but then suffered the blow and will start the race from 23rd.
Perkins was then struck by Andrew Heimgartner after the Kiwi youngster hit a cone marker and careered back onto the track.
“Clearly a day to forget! Jack was involved in 2 incidents that had nothing to do with him. Not happy about starting last w a bent car” his Holden Racing Team tweeted.