Scott McLaughlin makes history in Darwin, claims 11th win of the year
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Scott McLaughlin has won the first of two Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races at this weekend's BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown event. The Kiwi dominated the majority of the race, eventually cruising home to a hot 6.8-second victory over Chaz Mostert and David Reynolds.
His 11th win of the season was made even sweeter by a significant accolade in qualifying. McLaughlin took pole, which will go down in the history books as Penske's 600th pole position in global motorsport — a number that includes feats in IndyCar, NASCAR, IMSA, and more.
The pole also meant that he equaled Peter Brock's qualifying pole record (57), while the victory tied him up, ironically, with Brock's arch rival from the '70s and '80s Allan Moffat. McLaughlin now leads the championship standings by a whopping 298 points (two points shy of the maximum points one can score on a Supercars weekend).
The opening laps were chaotic. McLaughlin led having started from pole, but behind him there were incidents throughout the pack. Will Davison had marched into second after some door-banging at turn one with David Reynolds, at the back of the grid James Golding, Macauley Jones, and Jack Le Brocq all tripped over one another at turn three, and Andre Heimgartner and Mark Winterbottom clashed at the last corner (the latter spinning the former).
But the biggest incident in the early running was between Rick Kelly and Tim Slade. Approaching the turn-five hairpin, Kelly made contact with the rear of the Freightliner Commodore — tipping it into the outside wall. This prompted an early safety car.
The bold strategy play for the 42-lap race was to stop early for fresh tyres and empty track. However, the only driver to give the move a crack was Chaz Mostert. The move resulted in the SuperCheap Auto driver rising to second in the corrected order, but left him vulnerable to attack as the race wore on.
Most instead stopped either at halfway (McLaughlin) or with the last 10 laps firmly in sight — a move made by both Red Bull Holden Racing Team drivers. The main casualty of the pit cycle was Davison, who incurred a 15-second penalty after being released from his pit bay directly into the door of the passing Reynolds Penrite Commodore.
With everyone stopped by lap 34, McLaughlin led Mostert, Reynolds, Cameron Waters, Davison, Lee Holdsworth, Jamie Whincup, Fabian Coulthard, Shane van Gisbergen, and James Courtney to the chequered flag — the two Red Bull cars having made their last stops very late. It was a good recovery from van Gisbergen in particular, given he started the race from 12th.
Despite the fierce chasing pack, McLaughlin was able to claim a clear-cut victory without much threat. The pressing question towards the finish was whether Mostert would be able to cope on old tyres, but surprisingly he did. The strategy call brought him up to second from sixth, while Reynolds and Waters completed the top fiv.e
Whincup was one of the few to have made a jump in the closing laps. On his nicer tyres, he climbed to fifth. Holdsworth, Coulthard, van Gisbergen, Courtney, and Scott Pye rounded out the top 10. Chris Pither and Heimgartner completed the Kiwi contingent in 15th and 17th, with Heimgartner losing out following a 15-second penalty for weaving before the race restart.
Qualifying for tomorrow's final race starts at 11.25am NZST. The top-10 shootout follows at 1.05pm, with the 70-lap race scheduled for 3.30pm.
1. Scott McLaughlin
2. Chaz MOstert
3. David Reynolds
4. Cameron Waters
5. Jamie Whincup
6. Lee Holdsworth
7. Fabian Coulthard
8. Shane van Gisbergen
9. James Courtney
10. Scott Pye
11. Anton de Pasquale
12. Will Davison
13. Nick Percat
14. Garry Jacobson
15. Chris Pither
16. Simona de Silvestro
17. Andre Heimgartner
18. Mark Winterbottom
19. Todd Hazelwood
20. Jack Smith
21. Rick Kelly
22. Macauley Jones
23. Tim Slade
24. James Golding
25. Jack Le Brocq