Scott McLaughlin held on in the dying laps of today’s Phillip Island race to take win two of the year and the championship points lead with it.
In the 100th race for DJR Team Penske, the Kiwi was able to clean sweep the day and lead the championship for the first time since the final race at Newcastle last year.
McLaughlin took his third pole position of the year, locking out the front row with DJR Team Penske team-mate Fabian Coulthard. Coulthard was soon excluded from qualifying due to a technical breach with his car’s rear wing, promoting Jamie Whincup to the front row ahead of the two other Triple Eight cars.
McLaughlin and Whincup got an even jump off the line with the defending champion taking the lead around the outside at turn one. The pair were able to create a gap to van Gisbergen in third, trading fastest laps at the front.
Mark Winterbottom was lucky to escape without incident after going wide at the Hayshed, ending up in the grass and scattering the field when he rejoined. Coulthard moves up the field slowly but surely, moving up ten spots in only a handful of laps.
James Golding earned himself a 15 second penalty after spinning Simona de Silvestro at the MG hairpin, dropping the Nissan driver out of the top 20.
Whincup and McLaughlin came in on Lap 17, trailing nose to tail along the pit lane. A near identical fill time worked in favour of Whincup as McLaughlin had to check up leaving his pit bay, giving the leader an air gap.
Van Gisbergen’s struggles were contributed early on to a power steering failure, hardly a pleasant experience on the track with the longest time spent turning on the calendar.
In the second stint, McLaughlin started to hound the rear bumper of Whincup’s Commodore, showing the stronger car speed of the Falcon. Again, both entered the pits before any pass on the road could happen.
The previous pit stop was repeated with Whincup able to get out of the lane before McLaughlin, although the gap was tighter than it was after the last time. Now in a straight dog fight until the finish, Whincup took on four green tyres whereas McLaughlin put on green tyres on the working (right hand) side only.
On Lap 41, McLaughlin was finally able to squeeze his way past Whincup at Turn 2. While the #1 car stepped away from the first apex, the #17 was driven into the space and took the lead, opening up a gap on the subsequent lap.
Craig Lowndes was let ahead by Triple Eight stablemate Shane van Gisbergen in the final laps to try and have a crack at Nissan’s Rick Kelly. While he closed on his 2006 title rival, he wasn’t able to get the job done, giving the place back to his teammate.
McLaughlin took the flag ahead of Whincup, leading the points table from him by one point. Rick Kelly completed the podium, his first on the dais since Hombush 2015 in his 500th career race.
Van Gisbergen, Lowndes, Chaz Mostert, David Reynolds, Anton De Pasquale, Will Davison and Scott Pye completed the top ten. Coulthard did well to fight back up to 13th from last on the grid.
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