Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin.
Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin.

Reigning Supercars champion pips rival to pole

MOTORSPORT: He looms as the big challenger to Red Bull's domination of Supercars and Scott McLaughlin is doing nothing to change that perception at the season-opening Clipsal 500 in Adelaide.

The 23-year-old Melbourne-based Kiwi, who switched from Garry Rogers Motorsport to DJR Team Penske in the off-season, sent a warning to rivals during practice and qualifying for the Clipsal 500.

McLaughlin's 1min 19.7807sec was the fastest time of the day until defending series champion Shane van Gisbergen pipped him at the climax - by just 0.0001 seconds - to take provisional pole for Saturday's first race.

"I went to the toilet before qualifying so maybe that was it," van Gisbergen said.

"The car wasn't good this morning but we worked hard to make it comfortable.

"The car is fast on this new (soft) tyre and I'm really liking it."

Van Gisbergen admitted there was a lot to like about McLaughlin, whose car has been worked over by engineer Ludo Lacroix, who has crossed from Red Bull and Triple Eight Race Engineering.

"I followed Scotty's car earlier today and it just looked like one of ours," he said.

"Obviously Ludo has plugged a bit of that set-up in.

"We expected them to be up there. It's good to have that competition."

McLaughlin finished third in the 2016 series, behind Red Bull pair van Gisbergen and six-time winner Jamie Whincup, driving a Volvo. He's now behind the wheel of a Ford.

"I'm stoked, I'm over the moon," he said.

"A lot of hard work has gone in and to start like this is fantastic."

Saturday: Top 10 Shootout 11.30am, Race 1 2.50pm (times AEST)

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