Watch: Scott McLaughlin wins Adelaide 500 after fellow Kiwi's costly error
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Scott McLaughlin has claimed a memorable second consecutive victory at the Superloop Adelaide 500 — simultaneously earning himself an early Supercars Championship points lead.
McLaughlin led the race early, but appeared likely to have to settle for second when fellow Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen took the lead during the first pit-stop and retained the lead through the second stop, with margin in hand. But, a critical error with an fuel miscalculation during that second stop meant van Gisbergen had to make a third pit-stop; forcing him to give up the win and a spot on the podium.
His pain was Chaz Mostert's gain — the former Bathurst 1000 winner earning a second-place on his debut with Walkinshaw Andretti United, just ahead of Waters. Van Gisbergen looked set to grab Waters for third, but he was instead put to bed in the closing laps with a suspected left-front suspension assembly failure and subsequent failure to finish.
The race start was greeted by an all-Kiwi front row; van Gisbergen on pole over McLaughlin, with Tickford Mustang drivers Will Davison and Cameron Waters tucked in behind. The starts themselves were relatively equal, with McLaughlin leaping around van Gisbergen's outside to take first place.
Behind them chaos unfolded at the base of the top 10, with Anton de Pasquale and Scott Pye eliminated from the race following a chaotic multi-car crash. Sadly for Erebus Motorsport, the crash was triggered by de Pasquale's teammate David Reynolds locking up and punching into the back of his fellow Penrite Commodore runner. Reynolds incurred a pit-lane penalty as a result.
Whincup aimed to replicate McLaughlin's early pit-stop strategy from Saturday's race, only to fall foul of Lee Holdsworth performing exactly the same strategy. He got some reprieve when Kiwi Chris Pither went off at turn 11, prompting the second safety car on lap 11. For everyone else, a crowded double-stacked pit-lane beckoned.
Surprisingly van Gisbergen emerged with the lead; McLaughlin oddly sitting in pit-lane for more fuel instead of dropping him to resume in first. The defending champ had to settle for second, ahead of the Holdsworth/Whincup battle, then Waters, Davison, Jack LeBrocq, and Nick Percat.
The middle segment of the race was relatively uneventful, with the two leaders driving away from Holdsworth and Whincup, and van Gisbergen putting a gap of over three seconds on McLaughlin for first. The curious driver in the latter pack was Mostert. He sat in eighth behind Percat, but had much more fuel on board than his immediate rivals.
The early-stopping leaders started stopping on lap 42. Holdsworth immediately fell back due to his longer stop, while Mostert was propelled forwards. Despite having a fuel advantage, McLaughlin wasn't able to make many inroads on van Gisbergen — the margin being over four seconds when the two resumed. Behind the leading pair, it was Mostert that emerged in third, ahead of Waters, Davison, Whincup, and Holdsworth.
But what appeared to be a straighforward sprint to the line got very complicated very quickly. Van Gisbergen, it was found, had not received all the necessary fuel in his second pit-stop. The unforced error meant the 2016 champ would need to push hard and then make a costly unscheduled pit-stop before the chequered flag. It effectively handed the win to McLaughlin, assuming he'd have a clean run to the finish.
Van Gisbergen's pace was quick enough to improve his situation somewhat (the margin to McLaughlin increasing to over nine seconds), and when he made that last stop on lap 68. His sole hope was the installation of fresh slick tyres, bolted on to give him extra grip relative to Waters and Mostert up ahead and to offer a tasty reprieve if a safety car were to come out.
He rejoined in fourth, less than four seconds away from Waters, who in turn was within a second of Mostert (all of them were over 10 seconds behind McLaughlin). The victory ended up being never in doubt for McLaughlin — his first win of 2020 coming with a margin of over 12 seconds. Instead, the question of the final laps was whether van Gisbergen could climb over Waters and Mostert.
Further compounding the equation was some form of shock or roll-bar issue on board van Gisbergen's Commodore, although it wasn't having much impact on the Kiwi's pace initially. By lap 73 he was within striking distance of the Monster Mustang, but clearly he was hesitant (stating the car was "safe, but loose" over the radio). He pressed on, but on lap 75 — just three laps from home and while trying to pass Waters — his left-front suspension assembly gave in and failed.
As he limped to a safe area, the drama solidified the order; McLaughlin over Mostert and Waters, with Davison, Whincup, Holdsworth, Percat, Reynolds, Fabian Coulthard, and Andre Heimgartner filling out the top 10.
Superloop Adelaide 500, race two
1. Scott McLaughlin
2. Chaz Mostert
3. Cameron Waters
4. Will Davison
5. Jamie Whincup
6. Lee Holdsworth
7. Nick Percat
8. David Reynolds
9. Fabian Coulthard
10. Andre Heimgartner
11. Mark Winterbottom
12. Jack LeBrocq
13. Rick Kelly
14. Todd Hazelwood
15. James Courtney
16. Zane Goddard
17. Bryce Fullwood
18. Jack Smith
19. Macauley Jones
20. Garry Jacobson
DNF. Shane van Gisbergen
DNF. Chris Pither
DNF. Anton de Pasquale
DNF. Scott Pye