Scott McLaughlin's Bathurst 12 Hour: Unfinished business
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It's fast becoming one of the biggest races of the year, and the perfect way to get the competitive juices flowing. Writing exclusively for Driven, Scott McLaughlin provides an insight into his Bathurst 12 Hour weekend at the wheel of the YNA Autosport McLaren 650S GT3.
Bathurst is always a special place, so it was exciting to walk into the track on Thursday morning and meet the team.
We had a test day at Queensland Raceway before the weekend, so I knew a few of the YNA Autosport guys but hadn't met the English lads who'd come out for the race. It was also a chance to meet my co-drivers because the only one I'd met before was Fraser Ross, so it was good to meet Alex and Andrew.
We spent the day getting to know each other, and went out on track in a hire car just to get a bit of a feel for the place again. There were a few media commitments that made it a busy start to the weekend.
My hotel was right on the track, which was really cool. It's the first time I'd stayed there, and Shane van Gisbergen, who was in the team's other car, was in the room next to me.
Walking across the bridge into the track in the morning, I was excited. Bathurst was pretty tough for me last time I was there, so I was looking forward to getting in the car and bouncing back.
After the test day, the team found a few things, so when we got out on track I was surprised how comfortable we were in the car.
It was still very hard to get a feel for it because traffic made it hard to get a clear lap.
That was one thing that really stood out for me and made me realise how hard the race was going to be. But the car was fantastic around there, it was an absolute beast of a thing and was really enjoyable to drive.
I was surprised off the bat how quick we were. In the first practice session I was basically cruising around so the pace was definitely a surprise.
Qualifying at Bathurst is always a cool thing, especially in a GT car. We only decided really late that I was going to qualify because Andrew Watson was very quick as well. It was a different qualifying for me to get used to because of the different classes, and the first session was a mixture of them all.
The Class A qualifying session was probably the most fun session of the weekend; bolting on new tyres and having a lot more clean air than what we were used to.
That session was the first time I felt really comfortable in the car and I was finding my limit in most corners.
The whole session was a learning experience so to end up third was a little bit of a surprise — on Friday we had the potential to go fast but, with the track like it was with traffic, it was just hard, so that was a good session.
I was pretty excited for the race but I didn't sleep too badly. I knew quite early that I wasn't going to be starting the car for the race, so Shane and I decided to walk over when we heard the cars heading out.
It was a nice relaxed start; I got there in time to see the car on the grid then head to the garage for the start.
It was a fun race but a little bit frustrating.
Alex West had a radio problem and came into the pits during his stint, which cost us a lap early. At the time, there was still about nine hours to go, so we thought we'd be able to get that back. But we battled away all day and just couldn't.
We didn't drop a lap from that time, but we didn't gain a lap back, either. We charged on and nearly got back but got caught up with opposition from different classes that were driving slowly behind the safety car.
It was disappointing because it was such a little thing that cost us the whole day.
But all my team-mates did a fantastic job, including Alex. Fraser did his fastest lap of the weekend in the race and Andrew was the same, he was very quick.
I think we had the speed, if we didn't lose those couple of laps, to really challenge for a top five finish.
We had a lot of pace, and more pace than we thought we would, so it was a difficult pill to swallow when we ended up two laps down.