Motorsport: V8 Kiwis flying at Albert Park

Fabian Coulthard led the way in qualifying in Melbourne. Photo / Mark Horsburgh - EDGE Photographics
Fabian Coulthard led the way in qualifying in Melbourne. Photo / Mark Horsburgh - EDGE Photographics

A flying Kiwi was expected to ruffle feathers in the V8 Supercars action at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne - but few would have predicted Fabian Coulthard.

Shane van Gisbergen had kept his Australian rivals honest with a dominant win in the recent opening round at Adelaide despite a reported legal wrangle over his messy departure from a former team hanging over his head.

While the driver affectionately known as ``The Giz'' again flew high in qualifying for the opening race of the non-championship round in Melbourne on Thursday, compatriot Coulthard turned the most heads.

Luck is finally turning around for the 30-year-old Holden driver after he grabbed his first career pole for Friday's opening 30 minute blitz around the Albert Park street circuit.

Coulthard had been a top five performer in the recent opening round in Adelaide, only for mechanical problems and an oil spill to dash his hopes in the two 250km races.

But it all came together for the New Zealand gun on Thursday, clocking the fastest lap time of 1min: 55.67sec ahead of teammate Jason Bright (1:56.02) and fellow Kiwi van Gisbergen (1:56.04).

Series leader Craig Lowndes (1:56.20) was fourth quickest ahead of Holden teammate and four-time series champion Jamie Whincup (1:56.42).

However, Whincup was a winner before the V8s hit the Melbourne track.

An out-of-court settlement with a former sponsor has ensured it is business as usual for the Holden star.

There had been friction building between Whincup and his champion Triple Eight team over a long-running clash in energy drink sponsors.

Whincup had renewed his personal deal with Monster Energy, only for Triple Eight to earn powerhouse Red Bull's backing ahead of the 2013 V8 Supercars season.

Whincup tried to opt out of the personal sponsorship deal, prompting Monster Energy to launch legal action against the V8 poster boy late last year.

However, months of angst finally came to an end with an out-of-court settlement on race eve ahead of the V8 Supercars action at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The dispute had been thrashed out in a NSW Supreme Court hearing since Monday.

Monster Energy reportedly did not seek damages.

The resolution leaves Whincup free to continue his V8 campaign under the Red Bull banner.

Whincup looked like a relieved man on Thursday, clocking the fastest practice time (one minute 56.66 seconds) ahead of Ford rival Mark Winterbottom (1:56.81).

But in qualifying Winterbottom's tune had changed after managing only the 10th quickest time after suffering steering damage, adding to his frustrating season start.

Nissan again showed promising signs with Michael Caruso (12th fastest) and Todd Kelly (13th) just outside the top 10.

The first of Friday's two 30-minute V8 races start at 11am AEDT.

A practice penalty ensured Bright was later banished from second to fourth on the starting grid for the opening race.

It ensured an all Kiwi front row of Coulthard and van Gisbergen.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 22 Aug 2014 08:22:14 Processing Time: 480ms