Scott McLaughlin has taken another win for 2018 by putting in a complete drive to take victory in the opening Supercars race at Barbagallo Raceway.
With another win from pole, McLaughlin was untouchable throughout the race despite being one of the few drivers who only took one pit stop.
Joining him on the front row was Cam Waters with Fabian Coulthard and Mark Winterbottom making it four Fords on the first two rows on the grid. Tim Slade was the first of the Holdens in fifth while the Red Bull Holdens of Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen struggled throughout qualifying and their times were only good enough for 14th and 12th respectively.
Although McLaughlin was on the dirty side of the track, he made the best start as Waters lit up the rear tyres. Coulthard too had a blinding start, getting past Waters to make it a DJR Team Penske 1-2 at the front.
A feisty battle involving James Courtney and Garth Tander ended up with Courtney being spun coming in to the pits, with Tander running in to him after failing to indicate and taking a slow entry into the lane off the last turn.
McLaughlin pitted at the end of Lap 19 with Coulthard and Slade coming in on the next lap. Coulthard was lucky not to spin after getting hit in the same way as Courtney earlier. An issue changing the left-rear tyre dropped him way down the order on re-entry.
Winterbottom came in from the race lead on Lap 29, going for a long opening stint so that he could charge to the end of the race. An awkward re-entry meant he dropped behind Nick Percat as opposed to being in clear air, making the fight to get back up the front harder.
Whincup, who pitted on Lap 15, was able to jump up into third position for most of the latter stages, hounding the rear of Mostert who was struggling with pace. The pair later tangled as Mostert tried to enter the pits on Lap 33, joining the list of drivers falling victim to Barbagallo’s poorly designed pit entry.
Slade was able to make hay and move himself up in to second ahead of Whincup. The defending champion was a sitting duck and was quickly passed by Waters, Lowndes and Coulthard within a lap. He and the Red Bull crew had no option other than to pit with ten laps left, bolting on new tyres to try and make up some places.
On the ‘equal’ strategy, Winterbottom moved himself way up the order, picking off some in the top spots in the closing laps en route to a fine second place. Van Gisbergen made similar progress on fresh tyres, taking fourth from Waters on the penultimate lap and moving to third on the last lap.
Up front, McLaughlin couldn’t be touched, taking his third win in a row and his fourth for the season to extend his championship lead. Winterbottom and Van Gisbergen joined him on the podium.
Slade, Lowndes, Waters, Will Davison, Coulthard and Mostert made up the top ten. Whincup, having provisionally finished sixth, was bumped down to eleventh place with a five-second time penalty for his contact with Mostert.
Image via Shell V-Power Racing Team
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