Scott McLaughlin has taken all 300 points available for the second round in a row after winning the 200-kilometre Sunday race at Barbagallo Raceway.
The DJR Team Penske driver fought back from 19th on the grid after making a mistake in qualifying to win his fourth race in a row this season as well as his fourth in a row in Perth, moving to a 158-point championship lead.
A frantic qualifying session saw Shane van Gisbergen take pole after rain threatened to halt the order with Andre Heimgartner leading the way. The Nissan driver ended up in fourth after Jamie Whincup and David Reynolds outqualified him.
The shock of the session came when both DJR Team Penske cars of Fabian Coulthard and championship leader McLaughlin were knocked out in Q1. Seventeenth and nineteenth respectively were the best that the pair could manage; McLaughlin’s tardy lap came thanks to a lock-up at Colb corner after putting in a best first sector. Craig Lowndes and Garth Tander struggled too, taking up the final spots on the grid after poor laps.
Starting on the dirty side of the road, van Gisbergen threw away the lead before Turn 1 as Whincup and Reynolds had lightning starts to relegate the pole-sitter to third. Drama further back in the opening tour saw Scott Pye and Coulthard spin and end up off the road as the pack went hard on cold rubber.
McLaughlin started his attack from the back early on, avoiding the carnage and going on the grass down the main straight to pass Richie Stanaway and Tim Blanchard in successive laps, moving himself up to twelfth.
The first Safety Car of the weekend came on Lap 4 when contact between Todd Hazelwood, Garth Tander and James Golding resulted in the latter buried in the sand trap at Turn 1. Only Will Davison didn’t pit while van Gisbergen was the biggest loser, having to double-stack behind Whincup.
Good strategy moved McLaughlin way up the order, taking the race lead after the first stops by putting fresh tyres and loads of fuel on early. Heimgartner kept up at the front though suffered at the later end of his stints thanks to earlier stops than his competitors.
Different amounts of fuel at the stops scattered the order as the race approached half distance and most drivers had taken their second stop. The move of the race came when Reynolds passed Whincup and Rick Kelly around the outside of Turn 1 as the pair squabbled and fought on older tyres than the Erebus car.
Whincup came in for his final pit stop on Lap 56, taking on tyres until the end of the 83-lap race and crucially emerging ahead of Mostert who had pitted a few laps earlier. Tim Blanchard had to limp back to the pits after his right rear wheel departed at Turn 1 thanks to a stripped hub.
McLaughlin pitted from the lead on Lap 60, taking four tyres until the end of the race and enough fuel to get home. Reynolds followed from second on the next lap, emerging way behind McLaughlin who was having to fight his way through the backmarkers to get clear air.
Van Gisbergen’s fourth and final stop came on Lap 66, taking on new tyres to give him an edge over the pack in the run to the flag. Emerging in 13th, his job was made a little easier after Tim Slade had a big moment after running on to the marbles and off the road on the run up the hill.
Despite Reynolds making ground in the last 20 laps, no one could touch McLaughlin who took the chequered flag well clear of the Erebus. Reynolds’ podium was his first at Barbagallo despite going off at the last turn, still finishing ahead of Lowndes who came back from the last row to third.
James Courtney, Van Gisbergen, Whincup, Percat, Heimgartner, Jack Le Brocq and Rick Kelly rounded out the top ten.
Image via Shell V-Power Racing Team
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