Mike Stevens | Apr 18, 2009

Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom will start on pole position for Race One of the Hamilton 400 in New Zealand this afternoon after setting a blistering lap in the top 10 shootout .

Winterbottom narrowly beat defending champion Jamie Whincup by one-thousandth of a second, securing an all-Ford front row for the opening race.

Fellow Ford driver Steve Johnson and the Holdens of Michael Caruso and Garth Tander rounded off the top five, presenting the Blue Oval with a great chance of finally ending its Tasman hoodoo.

Winterbottom was thrilled to secure pole despite trying to avoid riding the kerbs and potentially compromise his speed.

“You have to be smart about how you do it but when you’re out there you don’t think about anything; all your mind’s telling you to do is put your right foot down and go for it,” he said.

“You try and get clarification of what it is, which I did yesterday.

“There was about four tenths we could have found yesterday by just doing what they did, so you know what you’re going to find but you just don’t sacrifice the car until you have to do it.”

For Whincup, the result is a massive improvement on his performance in Hamilton last year, when the Team Vodafone driver missed both races after smashing his car beyond repair in Friday qualifying.

Leading up to the event, he said his main goal for the race weekend was to make it to the starting grid without incident.

"My main aim for this weekend is to make the race. If we can get to Race 1 then we have already achieved more than last year," Whincup said.

“I love the track, the few laps I did in 2008 were very enjoyable and it would be nice to get some reward for the hard work we put in last year.

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