The combination of Scott McLaughlin and his DJR Team Penske Ford Falcon on a street circuit has again produced the goods as the young Kiwi took his first win of the year in this evening’s Supercars race at Albert Park.
After starting from pole, the 2017 title runner-up had to fight for the win as a pit drama put him on the back foot for the end of the race.
McLaughlin took his first pole of the year with his teammate Fabian Coulthard lining up alongside to lock out the front row. Jamie Whincup and Chaz Mostert were close behind, securing third and fourth respectively while Shane van Gisbergen and David Reynolds completed the front three rows.
Off the line, Whincup got the best run of the top bunch and pressure on to McLaughlin but couldn’t take the lead; the pair ran side-by-side for the opening few corners with the #17 car leading the opening lap.
The opening lap tension soon subsided with the order at the front normalising and the gaps beginning to expand. Further back in the pack, Simona de Silvestro spun Jack Le Brocq at the penultimate corner as the pair went either side of a slowing Richie Stanaway.
Whincup became the first driver in the lead bunch to take a compulsory pit stop on Lap 10, coming out in clear air and in front of those who had taken stops earlier in the race.
McLaughlin blinked on the next lap, pitting with Mostert in tow, but the pair were pipped by Whincup for the race lead due to a problem with equipment in McLaughlin’s stop. Their respective teammates in Coulthard and van Gisbergen came in on the next cycle, just coming out ahead of Scott Pye and Mostert.
Whincup retained the lead with ten laps left but McLaughlin closed the gap, tucking himself under the rear wing of the #1 Commodore in the closing laps while the pair legged it from the pursuing pack.
McLaughlin took the race win after going door-to-door with his old title rival, retaining the lead at arm’s length in the dying laps.
The hungry drivers in the mid-pack who took late stops were making the best of good tyres, mainly the Brad Jones Racing pair of Tim Slade and Nick Percat who pulled Prodrive’s Cam Waters along with them.
Image via Keith McInness Photography