McLaughlin: 'Bathurst, I rate it higher than the championship'
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Championship leader Scott McLaughlin will throw everything at winning a maiden Bathurst crown next week - including his title advantage.
The 24-year-old Kiwi leads the Supercars championship by 84 points heading into the 1000km endurance test at the famous Mt Panorama circuit but thoughts of the championship will be cast to the side as he pursues a life-long dream to win the famous race.
The lure of Bathurst and its phenomenal 6.21km lap that rises 174m from lowest point to highest has drawn McLaughlin in. The blind corners with concrete barriers looming should you get it wrong, weather changes, drama, and the toll 1000km takes on both man and machinery appeals like no other race on the calendar.
"I'm excited. Bathurst, for me, I rate it higher than the championship," McLaughlin told The Herald.
"You have six hours and a lot can happen in that time. The thing is you can have a bad race and still come back and win the championship but at Bathurst if you have a problem you are pretty well stuffed."
The DJR Team Penske driver has already experienced the highs and lows the race can throw up in his short Supercars career. He qualified on the front row last year and was in the fight for the race win when Jamie Whincup forced him wide at the end of Conrod Straight. As he returned to the track he collided with the Red Bull Holden and Garth Tander's Holden, ending his chances.
"I have realized in the past two or three years, after some pretty tough endings, that it means a lot more to win that race and I'll be doing everything I can to do that," McLaughlin said.
"Not just to win but to get on the podium would be such a cool result for me - I have never been up there before."
McLaughlin has a well-documented love of NASCAR racing and has mentioned the possibility of pursuing a drive in the North American series at some point in the future.
While his move to DJR Team Penske this year will strengthen his connections to NASCAR - Penske operates one of the leading NASCAR teams - McLaughlin is adamant the focus is very much on ticking off some Supercar goals first.
A win at Bathurst next week would be one such goal.
"Whether [a move there] happens or not I'm not sure," McLaughlin said. "At the end of the day I am a Supercars driver and that is the how it is. I have a great opportunity with Team Penske to pursue NASCAR but that is not on our radar just yet - I think there are a few things we need to achieve here and then I will look further ahead.
"I would love to try a few things. I don't know that I want to leave V8s - I love V8s - but if time allows I would like to do a few things outside of Supercars. I would like to do some GT racing in Europe if time allows.
"I am only 24 so time is on my side."
A win at Bathurst next week would go a long way towards winning a maiden Supercars title later this year. At that point maybe the NASCAR goals become more of a focus in the shorter term.