Scott McLaughlin accepts penalties, but doesn't agree with them
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Heart-broken Kiwi Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin accepts the penalties handed down to him in yesterday's title-deciding race but he doesn't agree with them.
The 24-year-old needed to finish 11th or better to secure a maiden Supercars title in the final race of the season and was leading the race when he was given a pit lane penalty for speeding at his first stop. He then got handed two further penalties as he climbed his way back through the field – the third one coming while he was in 11th spot and on the final lap of the race when he tangled with title rival Jamie Whincup's teammate Craig Lowndes.
"It was one of those events and races that was just once in a lifetime sort of stuff," McLaughlin told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave. "It was pretty flat-out.
"I was on the end of some what I feel were different calls but I also made a lot of mistakes myself.
"I learned a lot from that race but I am pretty gutted at the moment."
McLaughlin was the third driver to be stung by a penalty for speeding in the lane and television replays appeared to show that he had engaged the limiter that keeps the cars at the maximum 40km/hr in time.
Meanwhile the car that followed behind him – fellow Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen – made up ground yet wasn't given a speeding penalty.
"I am not sure – that is probably the one that I would debate the most even against the Lowndes call," McLaughlin said.
"I got notified before I pitted that people were getting done including Fabian [Shell V-Power teammate Fabian Coulthard] so it was probably the slowest pit lane entry I had done all weekend and it was really surprising to me when I got done for that."
That drive-through dropped him towards the rear of the field and he needed to make passes to get himself back into the title hunt. But that put pressure on to make clean passes.
"Obviously the Simona [de Silvestro] incident – if it wasn't the pit lane stuff we probably wouldn't be back there - but that was completely my fault. I put my hand up 100 percent," McLaughlin said.
"Then the Lowndes incident that is racing hard for one and then just being a little bit handicapped because the left mirror wasn't usable.
"It was a tough pill to swallow, especially that first one. I don't believe I was speeding but I will respect the umpire's decision and we just have to move on."
Despite all the drama two late passes on cars from his former Garry Rogers Motorsport stable saw McLaughlin get to 11th and good enough to take the title as he began the final lap. But Lowndes had fresher tyres and had a crack at getting up alongside the Kiwi after the first corner.
"I made a little mistake into one and got a little bit over-excited and the car was badly bent from a bit of other contact and stuff and obviously passing off-line the tyres were done. I just went a bit too hot into one, made a mistake and Lowndesy got up the inside. I knew he was close but I didn't know how much overlap he had so I gave him basically all but the car length but we got pretty close to the wall and they it angled out – that is what really hurt us.
"I would have preferred to have my case heard after the race but at the end of the day it is an umpire's decision and I will respect every call they make."
It was the cruelest way for an incredible record-breaking year to end for McLaughlin.
He will bounce back and he will almost certainly be the favourite to win the title in 2018 but that is little consolation at the moment.