The growing rivalry between superpower Red Bull Holden Racing Team and Shell V-Power Racing team was laid bare in an intense battle between their four superstar drivers at Albert Park today.
The Penske pair of New Zealanders Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin took the honours ahead of compatriot Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup with a dominating performance across the unique, back-to-back four qualifying sessions format at the Rolex Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Coulthard and McLaughlin scored the quinella in sessions one and two before Whincup split the pair in the third session and took the last. McLaughlin was penalised for exceeding track limits on his only flying lap in the last session, finishing in last.
"I enjoyed driving the car today, it did everything I expected of it and more," Coulthard said.
"We aren't the ones talking about the rivalry, we are just going about our business and trying to provide the quickest cars we can and at each and every event.
"It's pretty big to have Shell on the Ferrari Formula 1 cars down the road and to have the Shell V Power association with us here in Supercars its definatly time to put on a good show.
"I am pretty happy with the progress the team has made in the first two rounds and we need to keep the ball rolling."
Times were quick from the outset with all cars running the Dunlop SuperSofts for the first time in Melbourne. Van Gisbergen and Whincup were the first out of the blocks. But McLaughlin was quick to strike followed by Coulthard for the first 1-2 finish of the day.
Whincup split the Shell cars in the third session while Van Gisbergen had a shocking run to finish back in spot 25 and then sixth in the final stanza, leaving a battle in three before McLaughlin's penalty.
"I think I am overdriving a little bit," McLaughlin said.
"I am still trying to find myself a bit in the car. Over all I am stoked but I am disappointed I wasn't up there in the fourth session with Fabs. I didn't quite get the best first sector and I just tried to make it up. There were mistakes on my part. I try to find a bit too much and overstepped the mark."
Having been in the top three early Craig Lowndes dropped down the order in dramatic fashion, finishing the ten-minute session way back in position 19. He had a similar experience for the rest of the day.
Mobil 1 HSV Racing's James Courtney finished dead last in the second session having not completed a flying lap. He had finished in fifteenth in the first session but recovered brilliantly in session three to finish in fifth and the final stint in eighth.