Scott McLaughlin’s early march on defending his Supercars Championship title is breaking into a canter, with the DJR Team Penske driver leading home teammate Fabian Coulthard in the opening race of the Phillip Island SuperSprint.

The pair had secured a front-row lockout in Saturday’s earlier three-part qualifying session, with McLaughlin’s pole-winning lap almost six-tenths of a second clear of Coulthard’s best effort in Q3. Chaz Mostert made is a Mustang 1-2-3 in his Tickford Racing Ford, while Kelly Racing’s Andre Heimgartner took the unfancied Nissan Altima into a superb fourth.

The session was a disaster for DJR Team Penske’s chief series rivals, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, which saw Shane van Gisbergen qualify ninth-fastest while an off-song Jamie Whincup could only manage seventeenth in his ZB Commodore.

The race start saw an even getaway by McLaughlin and Coulthard, with the duo drag-racing side-by-side towards and through Turn 1 before McLaughlin was eventually able to slot in front. Rick Kelly made a superb start in his Nissan, vaulting from sixth to third and getting ahead of teammate Heimgartner.

With the compulsory pit stop window opening on Lap 5, McLaughlin dived into the pits on Lap 6, with Coulthard responding a lap later. The pair’s running order didn’t change, but further down the field there was plenty of movement with the likes of Erebus Motorsport’s David Reynolds vaulting to an effective fourth behind Heimgartner through the pit stop sequences.

There was more drama for the Holdens of Tim Slade (Brad Jones Racing) and James Courtney (Walkinshaw Andretti United), who suffered simultaneous right-front tyre blowouts on the approach to Turn 1. Both had to limp back to the pits, with the flailing tyre carcasses causing extensive damage to Courtney’s car in particular.

Whincup’s dreadful Saturday became worse when he was prematurely released from his pit stop before his right front wheel had been properly fastened. As he toured back to the pits, the loose wheel nut parted company with his Red Bull Holden through Turn 3. Ignoring calls by his team to immediately stop the car, he continued through the Siberia left-hander whereupon his wheel fell off and he was forced to park his car on the side of the circuit.

That triggered a lengthy Safety Car interruption so his stranded car could be safely retrieved, with the sizeable lead built by McLaughlin and Coulthard now completely eliminated.

McLaughlin and Coulthard controlled the restart to perfection and bolted clear at the green flag, but the bunched pack saw more drama when Whincup’s teammate van Gisbergen clashed with Cam Waters’ Tickford Racing Mustang while the pair was trying to pass sixth-placed Kelly’s Nissan.

The pair made wheel-to-wheel contact, which broke Waters’ right-rear suspension and led to the retirement of the youngster. Van Gisbergen was able to finish in sixth place, later overtaking Kelly.

Up at the front, McLaughlin led a DJR Team Penske 1-2 finish, with Heimgartner completing an all New Zealander podium after a superb drive. Reynolds’ charge from twelfth place netted him fourth and vaulted him to third in the Drivers’ Championship standings behind the DJR Team Penske duo.

Behind him came Mostert and van Gisbergen, with the top-ten completed by Kelly, Scott Pye (WAU Holden), Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing Holden) and Will Davison (23Red Racing Ford).

2019 Australian Supercars Championship WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint – Race 9 Final Classification (27 laps)
Pos Driver Team Result
1. Scott McLaughlin Shell V-Power Racing 47:44.691
2. Fabian Coulthard Shell V-Power Racing + 1.240
3. Andre Heimgartner Kelly Racing Plus Fitness Racing + 2.846
4. David Reynolds Penrite Racing + 4.327
5. Chaz Mostert Supercheap Auto Racing + 6.594
6. Shane van Gisbergen Red Bull Holden Racing + 10.108
7. Rick Kelly Kelly Racing Castrol Racing + 13.516
8. Scott Pye Walkinshaw Andretti United Mobil 1 MEGA Racing + 14.155
9. Nick Percat Brad Jones Racing + 14.408
10. Will Davison Milwaukee Racing + 15.068
11. Todd Hazelwood Bigmate Racing + 15.356
12. Anton de Pasquale Penrite Racing + 16.435
13. James Golding Boost Mobile Racing + 17.253
14. Richie Stanaway Boost Mobile Racing + 18.305
15. Lee Holdsworth The Bottle-O Racing + 18.718
16. Simona de Silvestro Kelly Racing Team Harvey Norman + 19.027
17. Tim Slade Freightliner Racing + 19.595
18. Macauley Jones Team CoolDrive + 20.083
19. Garry Jacobson Kelly Racing Racing + 21.628
20. Jack Le Brocq Truck Assist TEKNO + 35.987
21. Mark Winterbottom Irwin Racing + 1:33.067
22. James Courtney Walkinshaw Andretti United Mobil 1 MEGA Racing 1 lap behind
Not Classified Team Reason
DNF. Cameron Waters Monster Energy Racing Suspension
DNF. Jamie Whincup Red Bull Holden Racing Wheel

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Shell V-Power Racing was docked 30 Teams’ Championship points and fined $3,000 after the brake lock mechanism on both of its cars temporarily disengaged during their pit stops.
  • Red Bull Holden Racing Team was docked 30 Teams’ Championship points and fined $5,000 for Jamie Whincup’s car losing a wheel during the race.
  • Irwin Racing was docked 30 Teams’ Championship points and fined $5,000 for Mark Winterbottom’s car losing a wheel during the race.

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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