Friday featured a big shunt for four-time Bathurst winner Jamie Whincup, but he still needed to take a “massive risk” to reach the Top 10 Shootout in a rebuilt car.
Whincup was an unfortunate victim in a Practice 5 incident, where he crashed after trying to avoid Richie Stanaway’s accident at Skyline.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team repaired the #888 ZB Commodore in time for qualifying, which was affected by wet weather. However, for much of the session, Whincup was down the order, and loomed to miss the Shootout.
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With five minutes to go, Whincup was a lowly 20th, and suddenly, the ‘dream team’ appeared set for a lowly start.
However, the seven-time series champion found over two seconds across his next flying laps to seal seventh in the session, which was topped by Scott McLaughlin.
It was tight for Whincup, with just 0.16s back to Rick Kelly (#15 Castrol Altima) in 11th.
After the session, a “frustrated” Whincup discussed whether the car’s set-up contributed to his pace woes.
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“I nearly crashed about 15 times … it was a massive risk just to get in the 10,” he said.
“That’s racing you know, the competition is strong, but yeah, massive, massive risk just to finish P7 unfortunately.”
Rain is forecast for Saturday, albeit only one millimetre — but the risk element remains.
Whincup’s teammate Shane van Gisbergen qualified third despite encountering the grass at The Chase, and was 1.5s down on McLaughlin’s session best.
While satisfied to reach the Shootout, particularly after the practice shunt, Whincup knows he’ll have his work cut out to gain any places in the Shootout should the weather arrive.
“Some qualifying runs, you’ve got a quick car and off you go, but we had to grind our way then,” he said.
“We probably didn’t change enough for the wet and we were genuinely down in the 20s [positions].
“Engineers and everyone did a good job, we ground away at it and just scraped into the 10, which is nice.
“I think it’s probably going to be wet again for Shootout … if it is, we’ve got some work to do to be competitive.”
Two half-hour practice sessions — at 9:40am AEDT and 12:10pm AEDT — precede the Top 10 Shootout is scheduled at 5:05pm AEDT.