Holden’s revised aerodynamic package hit the ground running at Pukekohe following Shane van Gisbergen’s record-breaking qualifying lap.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver claimed just his second pole of 2019 on Saturday, with van Gisbergen beating five Mustangs to P1 for the 70-lap Race 23.
The margins were tight across the three preceding practice sessions, which makes van Gisbergen’s margin — 0.1508s to second-placed Cameron Waters — all the more impressive.
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‘Super stoked’: Van Gisbergen beats Mustangs to Pukekohe pole
‘It was lit’: Fast Holdsworth smashes Pukekohe lap record
Coming into the weekend, the ZB Commodore package was tweaked, with an undertray extension and bootlid Gurney flap the key changes along with the removal of high-level brake light detail from the tailgate.
Such was the lateness of the changes, that RBHRT stressed over the delivery of the parts after they were dispatched too late to teams in New Zealand.
Van Gisbergen was “super stoked” with his pole, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the factory Holden squad with Jamie Whincup 12th, half a second down.
Following Friday’s first practice, van Gisbergen admitted noticeable changes in the high-speed sections of the circuit, yet “not in a good way” as he searched for set-up balance.
He found it in qualifying — in a big way — but conceded it remains a challenge to marry the car’s front and rear at the bumpy circuit.
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“With this new change, it’s given us so much rear and the front’s done nothing,” van Gisbergen said after qualifying.
“We had to take the wing off to turn it, but hopefully that won’t hurt the tyres in the race.
“We’ll find that out pretty quick.”
Tickford’s cars have been on the pace all weekend, with the Ford squad topping all three practice sessions prior to qualifying.
Waters, Will Davison and Chaz Mostert filled P2 to P4 in qualifying, with Lee Holdsworth P8.
The great surprise continues to be Scott McLaughlin’s pace — or lack thereof — as he was outqualified by Shell V-Power Racing teammate Fabian Coulthard for only the fourth time this season.
With P6, McLaughlin’s effort was his worst of the season to date, but the championship leader believes the threat of rain will keep his chances high of breaking Craig Lowndes’ season wins record on Saturday.
“Unfortunately not quite there,” McLaughlin said.
“We need to work a little bit more on the set-up and whatever.
“A little bit of me, a little bit of the car, we’ll get there though.
“I’m really struggling getting off the corner, slow-speed traction wise, so Turns 4 and 6 and the hairpin, just trying to get the grip.
“There’s a long race ahead and I think there’ll be a bit of rain too so we’ll have a bit of fun.”