Scott McLaughlin stuns the racing world at first major IndyCar test
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Kiwi Scott McLaughlin has defied expectation at his first major NTT IndyCar Series test, ending the day a stellar third behind Will Power and Alexander Rossi.
Power clocked a 1:46.7603 at the Circuit of the Americas track, with McLaughlin five tenths behind but heading a field of 27 cars — comprising of the category's elite. Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Simon Pagenaud, and Oliver Askew filled the top seven, with fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon winding up eighth ahead of Alex Palau and Pato O'Ward.
“It’s fast, it’s got so much grip,” McLaughlin said. “It’s hard on your neck and body. I’ve been training really hard to get ready for it. I’m really happy with the car so far. I felt really comfortable and my seat position is really good. That’s ideal because I’m not going to have many times in the car before the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
“I’ve done some [simulator] work with the team. That’s been really helpful getting used to the track, knowing some traits of the car, but once you get in it’s so different. I’m really happy with how we’re going. I’ve had half a day but I’ve had plenty of new tyres and we’ve been having a crack.”
The test follows confirmation earlier in the year that McLaughlin would make his IndyCar debut at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in May. The event was said to be a one off, although teammate Will Power seemed to hint otherwise.
"I was impressed. For a guy that hasn't spent a stack of time in open-wheel cars it was brilliant," Power told Wide World of Sports. "Clearly Scott is very good. You see that in the Supercars. I've always said if you're a really good driver, you can adapt to different categories. He's picked this up real quick.
"I reckon the transition from Supercars to IndyCar is just perfect for him. An IndyCar is a purpose-built racecar where everything is just better. The brakes, the grip, the downforce. Everything does what it's supposed to.
"The first time out with the whole field there, to finish P3, that's brilliant. He's going to be very strong over here. I'm not sure what the long term plan is, apart from doing the Indy Grand Prix, but it wouldn't surprise me if he did more than that this year.
"He's not really a rookie, and you notice that. You can tell he's been a professional driver for quite a few years, because his approach is so professional. He doesn't do anything stupid, his feedback was good and he knows what he wants from the car. He acts like a veteran driver. He's had a lot of years in a top level series, his approach is great."
In McLaughlin's favour for the test was the fact that the Circuit of the Americas is one of the few American tracks that he's raced on previously — having competed there in the one and only American Supercars event in 2013. Still, that pace is a lofty early achievement in a car very different from his Shell V-Power Ford Mustang Supercar.