Scott McLaughlin of DJR Team Penske.
Scott McLaughlin of DJR Team Penske. MARK HORSBURGH

McLaughlin romps to pole in Townsville

WHILE every other Supercars driver hit the track for one last-ditch qualifying run, Scott McLaughlin already had his helmet off.

It was a bold but correct call: his rivals used an extra set of tyres in a fruitless quest to knock the young Kiwi off pole position for Race 13 at the Watpac Townsville 400, his eighth of the season.

McLaughlin had a two-tenths of a second margin over Jamie Whincup and Chaz Mostert despite electing to sit out the end of the session.

"That was (engineer) Ludo (Lacroix's call), but I back him 100 per cent, back my team 100 per cent," McLaughlin said.

Worrying for his rivals is that - despite it being the fastest ever Supercars lap of the Reid Park street circuit - McLaughlin felt he had left some time on the table.

"I wish I got the lap together," he said. "I (kind of) did, but there was a few ifs, buts and maybes there, so I need to work on that myself."

Whincup's final flier got him on to the front row, ahead of an all-Prodrive second row of Mostert and Cameron Waters.

Reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen lines up fifth ahead of Mark Winterbottom, much happier to be back near the front of the field after a disastrous weekend in Darwin three weeks ago, but still not quite satisfied.

"It was good yesterday, but in chasing a bit of turn we've killed the drive," he said.

"A lot of (corner) exits here lead to a lot of lap time. We just couldn't get on to it. The last corner was really killing me."

Nick Percat was best outside the big three teams in seventh, pipping newly re-signed David Reynolds.

Championship leader Fabian Coulthard ended the session ninth, overnight changes elevating him from only 18th-quickest on Friday.

"It's much more comfortable for me today than it was yesterday, I can tell you!" he joked.

"You're trying to learn a new car in three timed laps. Not unhappy with the performance. The boys have done a fantastic job getting the car back up into the 10, we were nowhere near that yesterday.

"It's all positive, we can move forward from that."

Others that will be hoping to move forward are James Courtney, who said he "managed to jag a lap" at the end to move to 15th, while Craig Lowndes lines up 19th after a near-miss on his final flying lap with Whincup.