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Scott McLaughlin managed to get the better of pole sitter Jamie Whincup in Race 16 of the Virgin Australian Supercar Championship and, as they say, ‘The rest is history.’
The Shell V-Power Ford Mustang driver held the effective lead throughout the largely uneventful race to claim victory from Whincup and Cameron Waters.
Whincup and McLaughlin were side-by-side as the lights went out but the #17 Mustang soon edged ahead with better grip from his grid position on the racing line. Replays later showed that Whincup had lurch forward slightly before the race start, but managed to avoid a penalty by stopping once again within the grid box lines.
There were dramas towards the edge of the top 10 when Scott Pye stalled, which forced both WAU Commodores to swerve towards the pit wall ignorer to avoid the stranded car. The rest of the field filed either side of Pye and left him well and truly at the tail of the field by the time he managed to fire up the engine.
McLaughlin managed to veer across to the left side of the track and effectively shut down any chance that Whincup had of regaining the lead at turn 1. McLaughlin led from Whincup and Courtney, who headed a three car Tickford freight train with Waters and Holdsworth in close pursuit. Things were not so good for the fourth Tickford entry as Jack LeBrocq limped towards turn 5 with damage after a melee at turn 1.
The soft tyre option for the round did not offer the same challenges as had been thrown down at Sydney Motorsport Park and team were confident in running the tyres with little degradation for most of the race. Most of the Top 10 had stopped well before lap 13, which left Anton DePasquale in the lead from Mark Winterbottom, Nick Percat, Chaz Mostert, Shane van Gisbergen, David Reynolds, Macauley Jones, Scott Pye, Alex Davison and Jack Smith. Bryce Fullwood had enjoyed an encouraging race amongst the top 10 during the first third of the race, only to run wide and off the track at turn 5 after a challenge from Fabian Coulthard.
Scott Pye was the last to stop with 9 laps left to run, which saw Scott McLaughlin take back the lead. Pye emerged in 14th place, which was a remarkable recovery after his start-line incident. Mostert was another to move up the order and claimed the scalps of Winterbottom and Coulthard in. Quick succession to climb into 8th place. By lap 31 it was McLaughlin from Whincup, Waters, Courtney and Percat.
McLaughlin eased out to a 2.8 second gap to Whincup, with a further 11 seconds back to Waters in 3rd as the field spread out over the final laps of the race. Chris Pither brought out local yellow flags when he stopped at the exit of turn 1, while van Gisbergen managed to take 8th place from Mostert despite complaints that the #97 RBHRT Commodore lacked engine performance relative to Mostert. A decision to pit van Gisbergen later and change all four wheels seemed to pay dividends for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver.
McLaughlin took the chequered flag comfortably ahead of Whincup and Waters. Courtney, Percat, DePasquale, Holdsworth, van Gisbergen, Mostert and Coulthard rounded out the top 10.
“The start of the race was really pivotal to be able to get in front of Jamie and into P1, because I was able to do my own race from then on,” McLaughlin told Shell V-Power media. “The boy’s pitstop was unbelievable, really fast, and I was so proud of them. They’ve been working hard and today’s race was a nice start to the weekend.” “My car was really strong throughout the run, and I was happy with the way that it just continued to do the same pace lap-after-lap. It was a good start to the weekend, so I’m pretty happy.”
Jamie Whincup knew that he had a difficult task to beat McLaughlin when he slipped to 2nd on the run to the first turn.
“It was all about the start today, and Scotty (McLaughlin) just got a little bit better drive on the clean outside line,” Whincup explained. “I was trying to have a bit of overlap so he couldn’t come across, but he just got in front enough to control it into turn one. Overall, we didn’t quite have the pace today, unfortunately. Car #17 was slightly quicker and deserved the win, so we’ll review everything and find out were we can improve.”
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