Watch: Scott McLaughlin wins Sydney V8 finale, as underdogs star
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Scott McLaughlin has ended the return round of the Supercars Championship on top, winning the third and final race of the weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park.
While McLaughlin's win helps extend the Kiwi's series lead to 49 points over Jamie Whincup, the day was punctuated by big performances from a number of the category's underdogs. Brad Jones Racing's Nick Percat, pictured below, broke a four-year drought to win the day's opening race after successfully chasing down Jamie Whincup.
Then in the finale, McLaughlin's leading competition was a hard charging Lee Holdsworth. The Tickford Racing Mustang driver was one of a selection of drivers charging through the grid on much nicer condition tyres. In the end McLaughlin was able to hold on to the spot by 1.5 seconds.
A tardy start from race eight polesitter van Gisbergen meant Whincup led early over McLaughlin in the day's opening race. Cameron Waters, Nick Percat, and David Reynolds also starred early to get by van Gisbergen in subsequent laps. Van Gisbergen's steep fade through the grid was symptomatic of a decision to run aged tyres for the day's first race.
McLaughlin was next to fade. On lap six he dropped from second to fifth as Percat, Waters, and Reynolds all got by in the space of a few corners.
Van Gisbergen peeled off from 10th on lap 11, helping trigger stops among the lead pack. McLaughlin followed on lap 13, with Percat doing the same a lap later after threatening Whincup for the lead. Whincup then did the same, in order to cover Percat's strategy.
Once the stops had been resolved, Whincup led Percat, Waters, Reynolds, Chaz Mostert, McLaughlin, Andre Heimgartner, van Gisbergen, Todd Hazelwood, and Mark Winterbottom. The crux of the race would be whether the four fresh tyres of Percat could catch and pass Whincup's two tyres.
By lap 21 Percat was all over Whincup for first, almost commiting to a courageous dive on the inside of turn five. The move instead came a lap later on the inside of turn four; Percat surprising Whincup with a clean run out of turns tow and three and over the hill.
With Percat driving off to end a long victory drought and Whincup claiming a quiet second, the main battle to watch in the final laps was for third between Waters, Reynolds, Mostert, and a fast closing McLaughlin. A fading Reynolds lost out to Mostert then McLaughlin, and with four laps to go Waters, Mostert, and McLaughlin were nose-to-tail.
Mostert got up alongside Waters on lap 29 over Corporate Hill, unable to pass but opening an opportunity for McLaughlin. The series leader was able to nip by Mostert at the final corner as a result.
Waters had a reprieve as a result, but it was just temporary. McLaughlin was all over the Monster pilot by the following lap; getting by at turn six. They made contact off the corner, then Waters served McLaughlin another whack over the hill ... Mostert sneaking back by Waters finally at the hairpin.
Reynolds got by Waters on the penultimate lap; helping finally cement the top six finishing order. Van Gisbergen, Winterbottom, James Courtney, and Heimgartner completed the top 10.
For the closing race of the weekend McLaughlin was back on pole ahead of Whincup, van Gisbergen, and Holdsworth. Tyre allocation was once again the theme, with Holdsworth and Hazelwood among those harbouring an excellent tyre set.
Van Gisbergen got a good start, but McLaughlin's perseverance on the inside allowed him to take the lead, with Whincup cheekily following him through. McLaughlin proceeded to build a gap, as an angry train built up behind the two Red Bull Holdens.
The opening laps were frenetic, as Hazelwood attacked Waters for fourth, Holdsworth and Reynolds traded spots repeatedly in the battle for sixth, and Fullwood and Percat began picking off cars at the base of the top 10. Hazelwood emerged as the wildcard of the lead pack early, eventually getting by van Gisbergen on lap nine.
Whincup stopped on lap 14 with a host of others, and McLaughlin, van Gisbergen and Percat reacted one lap later. Hazelwood and Holdsworth ran a longer opening stint, stopping on laps 16 and 18. They would be quick, but both were buried at the bottom of the top 10. After Holdsworth's stop, McLaughlin led Whincup, Reynolds, Wintterbottom, van Gisbergen, Waters, Percat, Courtney, and then Hazelwood.
Holdsworth was two spots back in 11th, but not for long. He immediately began forging his way up the pack, getting by Coulthard, Courtney, and Hazelwood in rapid time. By lap 23 he had also passed Waters, van Gisbergen, Winterbottom, and Reynolds; leaping over them all in the space of just a few corners to get to third.
He had seven seconds to catch up if he wanted to beat McLaughlin, and just under three seconds to catch Whincup. With six laps to go, Holdsworth leaped inside Whincup at turn two for second place.
It appeared to set the scene for yet another grandstand finish, but Holdsworth's pace presented diminishing returns. And, simultaneously, McLaughlin showed exceptional consistency. The Truck Assist driver made initial gains of up to a second a lap, only for McLaughlin to respond on the timesheets. In the end, the margin of victory was 1.5 seconds ... down from over seven seconds.
Whincup rounded off the podium, ahead of Reynolds, an impressive Winterbottom, van Gisbergen, a hard charging Anton De Pasquale, Hazelwood, Percat, and Fullwood in 10th. Coulthard, who looked set to finish outside the top 10, had a mechanical issue on the final lap resulting in him being the day's lone DNF.
The series now prepares to head to Winton Raceway for the next round on July 18-19.
2020 Supercars Championship Race 8, Sydney Motorsport Park
1. Nick Percat
2. Jamie Whincup
3. Scott McLaughlin
4. Chaz Mostert
5. David Reynolds
6. Cameron Waters
7. Shane van Gisbergen
8. Mark Winterbottom
9. James Courtney
10. Andre Heimgartner
11. Scott Pye
12. Anton De Pasquale
13. Lee Holdsworth
14. Jack LeBrocq
15. Fabian Coulthard
16. Macauley Jones
17. Alex Davison
18. Todd Hazelwood
19. Rick Kelly
20. Bryce Fullwood
21. Jack Smith
22. Garry Jacobson
23. Chris Pither
24. Jake Kostecki
2020 Supercars Championship Race 9, Sydney Motorsport Park
1. Scott McLaughlin
2. Lee Holdsworth
3. Jamie Whincup
4. David Reynolds
5. Mark Winterbottom
6. Shane van Gisbergen
7. Anton De Pasquale
8. Todd Hazelwood
9. Nick Percat
10. Bryce Fullwood
11. Jack LeBrocq
12. Scott Pye
13. Cameron Waters
14. James Courtney
15. Andre Heimgartner
16. Chaz Mostert
17. Rick Kelly
18. Jack Smith
19. Garry Jacobson
20. Macauley Jones
21. Alex Davison
22. Jake Kostecki
23. Chris Pither
DNF. Fabian Coulthard