Will Davison drives his Ford Falcon during the V8 Supercars qualifying session at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Getty Images
He may be out of the running for the V8 Supercars championship, but Ford driver Will Davison is determined to finish the season with a flourish.
Davison was defending V8 champion Jamie Whincup's main threat in the first half of the year, but a run of outs culminating in a disastrous Bathurst 1000 last month put him out of title contention.
He regrouped at the Gold Coast 600 two weeks ago, winning the second race, and has carried his resurrected front-running form to Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit, where the V8s are supporting the F1 race.
Davison, whose recovery has been more psychological than anything physical or mechanical, set the fastest three laps in Friday's 20-minute qualifying session in his Ford Performance Racing Falcon to clinch pole position for all three races this weekend.
He beat Holden's Whincup and Ford's Shane van Gisbergen, who also clinched the second and third spots respectively for each race.
Davison's problem wasn't a lack of speed - he won the pole position for the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 endurance races - but his confidence had been dented by a long run of mistakes or bad luck in races until he rebounded at Surfers Paradise.
With F1 allowing the V8s only limited track time, each driver's best three laps determined their grid positions for each of the 12-lap, 65-kilometre sprint races. The quickest lap times counted towards the starting position's for Saturday's first race, with the second and third quickest clockings fixing the grid for Saturday's second event and Sunday's final race respectively.
V8 officials had hoped the pressure-cooker approach would result in jumbled starting orders for each race, particularly at the front of the field, but Davison, Whincup and van Gisbergen locked out the first three positions with back-up laps in the same order.
Davison's fastest lap of two minutes 11.766 seconds around the 5.5-kilometre Yas Marina F1 track was a tenth of a second better than Whincup could manage in his Triple Eight Commodore, with van Gisbergen another three-tenths slower in his Stone Bros Racing Falcon.
With seven races to go, including this weekend, Whincup leads Davison's FPR teammate Mark Winterbottom by 218 points, with Whincup's Triple Eight Holden partner Craig Lowndes a further 27 behind and still in title contention.
Davison is fourth in the standings, 457 points off the lead and effectively, if not mathematically, too far behind to win the title.
Davison's mission now is to overtake Lowndes and even Winterbottom in the championship by winning as many races as possible until the end of the series at Sydney Olympic Park early next month.
"I have a lot of things still to play for," he said. "I'd like to finish the year the way we started (winning six of the first nine races) and I'd still like to get back into the top three of the championship, absolutely.
"At the end of the day, winning races and pole positions is very rewarding, and when you have a great car and a great team, you make hay while the sun shines. Right now, it's great to be challenging for wins and the more, the merrier.
"I'd love to end the year with the most pole positions and the most race wins."
What could derail Davison's hopes of a late winning streak - apart from Whincup's uncanny ability to recover from setbacks - is the spectre of FPR invoking team orders to help Winterbottom, who struggled in qualifying on Friday and was only seventh quickest.
But Davison, who has indicated he would be unwilling to sacrifice good results to assist Winterbottom, insisted that his team hadn't suggested he start playing a support role.
"It hasn't been discussed," he said. "It's not something you can really plan. They risk taking their eye off the prize if they're worrying about that.
"There could be exceptional circumstances where I might be able to help Frosty (Winterbottom), but he has to get the points himself. I'm certainly not going to do the dirty on anyone and jeopardise my reputation - and the team respects that."
With no pit stops, the trio of short sprints around the wide open spaces of the Yas Marina circuit is expected to be action-packed free-for-alls, much as the short qualifying races for the Sandown 500 in September were full of incidents.
"Sandown was the last time we had sprint races and that was pretty crazy," Whincup said. "Everyone will be going hard, not worrying about pit stops, strategy or anything like that - just chuck a set of tyres on it and see how quick we can go."
Van Gisbergen added: "It's the same top three for all the races, so the qualifying (procedure) hasn't spice it up as much as they thought it would. But I think there'll be plenty going on behind us."
Lowndes has also made life difficult for himself as he tries to stay in touch with Whincup in the championship race, starting Saturday's first race from ninth spot.