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Scott McLaughlin took out race 17 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at the Corestaff Darwin Supersprint and claimed his 50th Supercar race win the process. He doubled that with another victory in Race 18 to complete a clean sweep of the Corestaff Darwin Supersprint.
McLaughlin started Race 17 from pole position and stormed away to a 9.6 second lead over Shane van Gisbergen at the chequered flag, with Scott Pye 3rd just under 3/10ths from the bumper of the Red Bull Holden Racing Commodore.
McLaughlin managed to buck the trend for pole sitters at Darwin and held off van Gisbergen in the run to the first corner. Fabian Coulthard barrelled down the outside line and passed both Cameron Waters and Scott Pye in the process. Coulthard then slotted in behind van Gisbergen for the run over the crest. Jamie Whincup made a strong move up the inside at turn 5 to cement his position in the top 10.
At the end of the first of 38 laps McLaughlin led van Gisbergen, Coulthard, Pye, Winterbottom, Waters, Percat, Whincup, Heimgartner and Courtney. Coulthard, Waters and Courtney were amongst the first to pit on lap 6 as the order at the top of the field remained largely static, while van Gisbergen looked to exploit a possible undercut when he stopped on lap 7.
Scott Pye was the last to make his compulsory pit stop on lap 26 in the Dewalt sponsored Team 18 Commodore. The Team 18 driver had stretched out a substantial lead and was on course to retain a place in the top 2 after he stop, only to lose time with a small off at turn 7. He stopped at the end of the lap and resumed behind Coulthard in 5th. Pye quickly caught the #12 Shell V-Power Mustang and slipped inside for 3rd place at the final corner with 7 laps left to run.
Chaz Mostert moved into 7th on lap 32 with a move up the inside at turn 1. Percat hung alongside the WAU Commodore through turns 3 and 4, which placed the RJ Batteries Commodore on the inside at turn 5. Percat forced Mostert wide at the exit of the corner and the pair rubbed panels through turn 6, with Mostert able to maintain his position on the run to turn 7. Percat touched the back of the #25 Commodore at the final turn and overtook Mostert on the long front straight. Mostert responded under brakes with contact between the pair sending Percat off the circuit. Mostert received a 15 second time penalty from the Stewards for the incident.
“Didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” Mostert said (FoxSports). “Yeah rubbin’s racing and there was plenty of rubbing before that. Look at the end of the day it is what it is and I think it was a little bit line-ball. It would have been good to look at it at the end of the race and get a penalty at the end, but unfortunately got it right then smack and bang.”
Pye reduced the gap to van Gisbergen from 4 seconds to 0.8 seconds by lap 36 as McLaughlin crushed away to a 9 second lead. Macauley Jones was another to spin off into the grass at turn 1 on the same lap after contact from Garry Jacobson sent the Cooldrive Commodore. Jacobson also received a 15 second penalty for his actions.
McLaughlin took the win from van Gisbergen, Pye, Coulthard, Waters, Whincup, Courtney, Holdsworth, Winterbottom and De Pasquale. Mostert dropped from 7th to 18th with the addition of his 15 second time penalty.
“It’s awesome, very proud for the Shell V-Power Racing Team,” McLaughlin told Fox Sport. “I got a pretty good start, because (as always) it’s pretty hard racing Shane and I really enjoyed it. From there the car got hooked up. I knew that Scotty was going to come with fresh tyres , so I decided to try and pull a gap. The gap we had at the end was a testament to the guys and the way they build the car.”
“My car was great today and thanks to the boys (RBHRT) for that, but Scott was a little bit faster, they’re going really well, so well done,” Shane van Gisbergen admitted to Andy Joes (Fox Sports). ‘Hopefully this afternoon we can tickle it up and I’m looking forward to it.”
“The car is so much fun to drive now,” Scott Pye told Fox Sports. “It took me a little while to click with it and find the nuances with the car compared to the one I had been in. In qualifying I need to Gee myself up and find a bit more. Yeah that was a fun race and following Shane and I wanted to get him so bad, but just didn’t have it in the end.
Scott McLaughlin literally rocketed from the line at the start of Race 18, while Shane van Gisbergen struggled in comparison to get away. Such was the disparity between the pair that Nick Percat was able to follow the #17 Mustang and snatch 2nd place well before the first turn. McLaughlin led Percat, van Gisbergen, Winterbottom, Waters, Mostert and Whincup through the exit of turn 1 as the field managed to avoid incident through the opening corner.
McLaughlin led from Percat, van Gisbergen, Winterbottom, Waters, Mostert, Whincup, Pye, Heimgartner and DePasquale at the conclusion of the opening lap. Pitstops came into play from lap 6, with Waters, Pye, Reynolds and Courtney amongst the first to stop. Whincup stopped on lap 7 in an attempt to gain ground on the leaders, only to see the tactic come unstuck when Waters dived underneath the Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore at turn 1. Waters touch the first on the apex and slid into the #88, which forced both cars wide. Pye capitalised on the melee to pass both cars, while Water’s race was effectively over with damage to the right front suspension.
The leader pitted on lap 9 and returned to the track in 13th, while van Gisbergen ran at the front of the field from Winterbottom, Mostert, Heimgartner and DePasquale. The #97 Commodore stopped at half race distance and handed the effective race lead back to McLaughlin. Coulthard and Kelly led McLaughlin with 11 laps of the race left to run, though neither of the front two had made their compulsory pit stop. McLaughlin held the effective lead in 3rd from Percat, Pye, van Gisbergen, Mostert, Whincup and Winterbottom.
Rick Kelly led briefly before his stop on lap 30, though any joy from his time in front was soon eroded by a lengthy pitstop where the right front wheel refused to budge under the pressure of the rattle gun. He eventually returned to the track well down the order. Mark Winterbottom hounded Shane van Gisbergen for 4th place and finally found a way past the RBHRT Commodore around the outside of turn 6 on lap 34.
McLaughlin went on to record a perfect three-from-three for the weekend with the race victory from Percat and Pye. Winterbottom, van Gisbergen. Mostert, Whincup, Heimgartner, DePasquale and Coulthard completed the top10.
“We’ve made an absolute jet out of this car; we’ve been working on it all week,” McLaughlin told Shell V-Power media. “Having back-to-back rounds has been good. Being able to come back to the track and go on a track walk with Ludo was a good opportunity for him to really understand what I wanted from the car. And today, that is exactly what he gave me.”
“It’s all preparation, and I’m just really proud today because the car was phenomenal. To pull a gap like that in a field that is this tight is a really proud moment for our team.”
“I have worked hard on my starts – I’ve got a really nice procedure and I feel for the bite point now. When I first started I was pretty average and stalled it a lot, but I’ve worked on it and it’s a confidence thing. That last start was the best start of the weekend for me.”
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