Gardner is top gun in Shoot-Out

Australian motorcycle hero Wayne Gardner will start tomorrow's Bathurst 1000 touring car classic from pole position after setting the fastest time in Saturday's Top 10 Shoot-Out for the quickest runners in yesterday's qualifying session

Gardner is top gun in Shoot-Out

'Captain Cool' lived up to his nickname on a treacherously wet and slippery track, guiding his works Ford Tickford Racing Falcon around 1.2 seconds faster than surprise second man Steven Johnson, son of Bathurst legend Dick.

Light rain started around two hours before the Shoot-Out, then intensified just after the reverse order run-off had begun. That played into the hands of Johnson and Gardner, first and third to go respectively.

From then on the session turned to comedy as a succession of runners slid straight into and across the mud at the Chase chicane on the Conrod Straight. Stone Brothers Ford driver Tony Longhurst even turned the trick on his green-flag lap, then got stuck in the mud before finally slithering his way back onto the circuit and executing a three-point turn before continuing. He recovered to post the seventh fastest time.

As standing water increased on the circuit, the only threat to Gardner came from Russell Ingall, who wrestled his Perkins Motorsport Holden across the top of the Mountain in spectacular fashion and was up on the pole time until he came to the Chase. Ingall's pace was so hot that he cleared the mud and churned through the gravel before completing his lap.

"It was worth giving it a go and it doesn't matter too much where we are in the top 10," he said.

Race favourites Mark Skaife and Paul Radisich were third and fifth
respectively. They were the last two to run as conditions got worse and worse. "That was as good as I could do," said Skaife. "We brought it back with all the headlights on so it's looking good." Radisich added: "We haven't got a very good wet set-up and that's a bit of a worry for the race."

Gardner and Johnson were delighted with the result, if mindful of the fact that fate had played into their hands. "It was probably lucky that we went out in 10th spot," acknowledged Johnson. "There were some slips and slides. I missed Turn 1 by about 20 feet and after that I just kept it easy. But I can't wait for tomorrow."

British Touring Car champ Alain Menu was satisfied with the day too after team-mate Mark Larkham posted the fourth grid spot, giving the Swiss the best chance of success tomorrow of the five BTCC representatives.

1 Wayne Gardner (Neal Bates) (Ford Tickford Racing Ford Falcon) 2m28.3844s
2 Steven Johnson (Cameron McLean) (Dick Johnson Ford Falcon) 2m29.6150s
3 Mark Skaife (Craig Lowndes) (Holden Racing Holden Commodore) 2m30.6720s
4 Mark Larkham (Alain Menu) (Mark Larkham Motorsport Ford Falcon) 2m31.6161s
5 Paul Radisich (Jason Bright) (Dick Johnson Racing Ford Falcon) 2m32.2009s
6 Glenn Seton (Neil Crompton) (Ford Tickford Racing Ford Falcon) 2m32.8572s
7 Tony Longhurst (David Besnard) (Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon) 2m33.3617s
8 Todd Kelly (Nathan Pretty) (Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore) 2m37.3280s
9 Russell Ingall (Larry Perkins) (Perkins Motorsport Holden Commodore) 2m43.5516s
10 Garth Tander (Jason Bargwanna) (Garry Rogers Holden Commodore) 2m55.7286s

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