Bathurst 1000 title No.5 might loom for Holden’s Jamie Whincup after again dominating to claim provisional pole at Mount Panorama for Sunday’s Great Race.
But six-time winner Craig Lowndes’ Bathurst title defence already appears in tatters.
Veteran Lowndes finished 21st on Friday in the 27-strong Supercars field – his worst qualifying finish at Mount Panorama.
Lowndes, 42, contested his first Great Race in 1994.
“That’s news to me. I didn’t realise he had qualified that poorly,” a shocked Whincup said of Lowndes.
Whincup fell 0.14 of a second short of his lap record to top qualifying ahead of a fast-finishing Scott McLaughlin of Volvo.
Holden’s Tim Slade was third quickest before Saturday’s top-10 shootout to finalise the front of the grid.
Lowndes is the sentimental favourite to claim his seventh Bathurst 1000 on Sunday when the memory of his great mentor Peter Brock will be honoured at Mount Panorama, on the 10th anniversary of his death.
But Lowndes will need to produce a Bathurst miracle if he is to again receive the winner’s Peter Brock Trophy from the late great’s brother Phil.
His Holden had struggled since arriving on the mountain and he was in and out of the garage during a horror qualifying session.
Lowndes tried to put on a brave face.
“I have struggled with the car all week,” he said.
“But I started outside the top 10 last year – you never know.
“It’s disappointing starting 21st so we’ll try to stay out of trouble on Sunday and see where we end up.”
Whincup had been tipped to shatter his own lap record, set last year, after dominating practice at Mount Panorama but fell short, clocking two minutes, 05.04 seconds.
“The number doesn’t mean anything – it’s the position,” Whincup said of the missed record chance.
“I now have to do a job at the shootout.”
On the day Ford Australia closed its factory doors for the last time, Chaz Mostert tried to give Blue Oval fans something to cheer about in his Falcon.
Returning to the mountain after his 2015 Bathurst campaign ended with a horrific qualifying crash, Mostert topped the timesheets for most of the 40-minute session before being relegated to fourth fastest.
Defending series champion Mark Winterbottom of Ford was seventh quickest and series leader Shane van Gisbergen of Holden was sixth.
Red flags came out during qualifying when Holden’s Shae Davies and later female driver Simona de Silvestro (Nissan) speared off The Chase and into the sand.
That relegated them to the back of the grid for Sunday’s race.