Mustang dominates: Scott McLaughlin wins Supercars opener
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Entering today, Scott McLaughlin had never won a race at the Adelaide 500. But after a faultless performance at the opening Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race of the season, the 25-year-old Kiwi has re-written his own record books.
Not only did the defending series winner claim his first race win at Adelaide, but he also gave Ford's new Mustang Supercar a perfect debut to the Supercars series. McLaughlin's Red Bull rivals Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen weren't far behind; finishing second and third in what proved to be a relatively straightforward race.
"That's one for the Ford fans; a win for the Mustang. We're here, and we're here to party," said a celebratory McLaughlin. "It was really tough. Coolant and all that stuff was really good for us. We just brought it home. [...] It's early days, but we'll focus on tomorrow. I'm just stoked for everyone in the Ford Performance camp, and all the Ford fans."
McLaughlin only managed to qualify for the race in third, as teammate Fabian Coulthard claimed pole in the top-10 shootout earlier in the day. From the second row, McLaughlin made a perfect start to make it three-wide into turn one — the inside line giving him the beneficial line and the lead.
From there, McLaughlin dominated the caution-free race; growing the lead to over 10 seconds for most of the 78-lap race. He rarely looked under threat, and eventually collected the chequered flag first with a 12.9 seconds.
Behind McLaughlin, two of his Mustang counterparts represented big talking points early in the race.
Coulthard was the first, after being judged to have jumped the start. This meant a 10-second time penalty in his first pit-stop. Thankfully the Shell V-Power Racing driver bounced back; carving through the traffic in the balance of the race to finish sixth.
The other embattled Mustang driver early was Cameron Waters. The Monster Energy ace had a cool-suit failure while sitting fourth. After losing a few spots, he was called to peel into pit-lane for a cool-suit replacement as part of a new set of regulations surrounding the technology. Despite the adverse heat, the former Sandown 500 champion later reported that he was coping well without a functioning cool-suit.
The closest that the race came to being halted by a yellow was a crash on lap 27 between new Tickford Racing recruit Lee Holdsworth and MEGA driver Scott Pye. Holdsworth crashed and spun at turn seven — which was revised and narrowed for this weekend — and then got clouted by Pye. Despite significant damage, both drivers were able to resume (Pye later received a penalty for ignoring yellow flags, although in an interview he stated that they hadn't been waving).
In the closing laps McLaughlin and Whincup's grip on first and second appeared resolved. Van Gisbergen looked to be struggling for pace, and he had the train of Will Davison, Chaz Mostert, and Coulthard all closing in.
Van Gisbergen and Mostert spent the middle-phase of the race embroiled in arguably the closest on-track battle. The Kiwi appeared to be struggling more on pace than the Supercheap Auto pilot, but fended off numerous passing attempts at turn nine and turn four under brakes. Mostert then cracked on lap 50; outbraking himself at turn four and rocketing down the escape road.
He recovered to close back in on Davison, who in turn was rapidly closing in on van Gisbergen in the final moments. But, despite the accordion effect grouping the bunch, none of the third-to-sixth battle pack would swap positions.
Nick Percat, David Reynolds, Holden Commodore debutante Mark Winterbottom, and James Courtney completed the top 10, while Andre Heimgartner and Richie Stanaway rounded out the New Zealand contingent in 13th and 18th respectively.
1. Scott McLaughlin
2. Jamie Whincup
3. Shane van Gisbergen
4. Will Davison
5. Chaz Mostert
6. Fabian Coulthard
7. Nick Percat
8. David Reynolds
9. Mark Winterbottom
10. James Courtney
11. Rick Kelly
12. Todd Hazelwood
13. Andre Heimgartner
14. James Golding
15. Simona De Silvestro
16. Anton de Pasquale
17. Tim Slade
18. Richie Stanaway
19. Garry Jacobson
20. Jack Le Brocq
21. Lee Holdsworth
22. Cameron Waters
23. Scott Pye (Not Classified)