Watch: Scott McLaughlin claims two wins in dramatic virtual Supercars opener
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Kiwi Scott McLaughlin has set the digital benchmark in the opening BP Supercars All-Stars Eseries showdown; its three races split between two at Phillip Island and Monza. The defending title winner won the first and last races of the weekend, with Jack Le Brocq winning the most exciting race of the night in the middle.
The event was a step into unchartered territory for the series, as it continues to be impacted by Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown and crowd restrictions in Australia and New Zealand. While the final race was marred by numerous huge incidents, the second race ended with a (mostly) clean pair of memorable battles for the top four.
iRacing regular Anton de Pasquale started the first race from pole, only for McLaughlin to get the better jump off the line from third place on the grid. The two traded paint exiting turn two, but de Pasquale wouldn't stay there long. He would get relegated to the back after getting involved in a turn-four incident along with the likes of Van Gisbergen, Will Davison, Bryce Fullwood, and a range of other leaders.
When the dust settled, McLaughlin led teammate Fabian Coulthard, with Andre Heimgartner, Cameron Waters, Jake Kostecki, and Nick Percat the top six. Van Gisbergen soon had fought back to seventh over Chaz Mostert, de Pasquale, and Garry Jacobson (the latter inheriting the spot after Todd Hazelwood spun on lap six).
McLaughlin and Coulthard drifted away, leaving the battle for third as the one to watch. By lap six Waters had forged a path past Heimgartner to claim third, with Kostecki next in line to take on the former BNT V8s champion. Kostecki's main concern as the final laps approached was van Gisbergen.
But, Kostecki was able to hold on for fifth, as did McLaughlin at the front; 3.3-seconds in hand over Coulthard for a DJR Team Penske. Waters was third over Heimgartner. Behind van Gisbergen, Percat, de Pasquale, Mostert, and Jacobson rounded out the top 10.
For the reverse-grid race two (with a mandatory pit-stop), Rick Kelly was on pole over Jack Le Brocq, with Jack Smith, Lee Holdsworth, David Reynolds, and Mark Winterbottom filling the first three rows. Le Brocq got the jump healthily, with Reynolds firing from the third row into second. Winterbottom ended up third.
Kelly was fourth, before getting blindsided out of position by Holdsworth at the penultimate corner. Holdsworth was in the wars the next lap, too after being an innocent party of a three-car shunt with van Gisbergen and Will Davison.
Behind the lead pack, McLaughlin and de Pasquale made their pit-stops early to get out of all the drama. On lap six, when Mostert (the first of the leaders) made his stop, de Pasquale had emerged in front of him. With all the stops completed on lap 11, Le Brocq regained the lead (two seconds in hand) with de Pasquale, Mostert, Fullwood, McLaughlin, Heimgartner, and Reynolds in tow.
Two battles emerged as the ones to watch in the dying laps; de Pasquale's attack on Le Brocq for first, and McLaughlin's push to get past Fullwood for fourth place. Both duos briefly traded paint with each other. Fullwood defended his spot successfully, but it was a different story for the race for first.
Into the last corner of the last lap, de Pasquale had the better run and was able to sneak up the inside of Le Brocq. The two made contact, leading to Le Brocq having to scramble and run wide and de Pasquale took the lead. He briefly held the win, only to be penalised post-race for the contact by Driving Standards Observer Craig Baird.
This handed the win back to Le Brocq, and a 30-second penalty to de Pasquale. Second, therefore, went to Mostert, ahead of Fullwood, McLaughlin, Heimgartner, Zane Goddard, van Gisbergen, and Coulthard, with Percat rounding out the top 10.
For the Monza finale, de Pasquale and McLaughlin lined up on the front row, ahead of van Gisbergen, Mostert, Goddard, and Fullwood. McLaughlin got the jump from the inside line, but all was moot for every position onwards as three monstrous crashes dominated the opening lap.
First was Winterbottom getting turned around on the front straight, then second place onwards crunched at the turn-one chicane. The largest crash though was at turn three, with the limping cars from the turn-one incident all converging in a big pile-on mess. When the dust settled and the safety car was released, McLaughlin led Kostecki, de Pasquale, Goddard, and Hazelwood.
A long line of cars elected to pit under safety car, including all the leaders. This handed the lead to Waters with Alex Davison, Mostert, and Winterbottom in behind. McLaughlin, first of the safety car stoppers, was in ninth place. The second run through turns one and two was much neater, with only Mostert and Coulthard spinning out of leading spots (the latter hit by teammate McLaughlin).
Those in front of McLaughlin, while not following the same cycle, had stopped at the end of lap one before the safety car; meaning that their stops counted as mandatory stops. By lap seven, McLaughlin had forged through to fifth. And by lap 10, he had joined the top four in battle. He quickly picked off Le Brocq, via a move under brakes at the end of the back straight. Two laps later he was by Davison for third place, and under brakes into turn one on lap 14 he got by Winterbottom for second.
It proved to be an eventful lap for McLaughlin, as he soon caught Waters. The pair ran nose-to-tail down the back straight, and then tracked Waters' slipstream on the front straight; making the move without swapping paint. Behind, Mostert was following a similar trajectory, having pushed to third by lap 15. It had been thought that a five-second penalty was heading McLaughlin's way over the Coulthard contact, but it did not materialise.
Because of the early safety cars, the race would become time certain; its length trimmed from 19 laps to 18. This helped McLaughlin, who was lean on fuel. The Kiwi crossed the line in first, 1.4-seconds clear over Waters in second. Mostert rounded out a productive evening in third, over Davison, Le Brocq, Heimgartner, Coulthard, Winterbottom, Kostecki, and Fullwood in 10th.
The 10-round Supercars Eseries is now set to hit Silverstone in the UK and Barcelona in Spain next Wednesday, April 15.