Scott McLaughlin has broken Craig Lowndes’ long-time record for the most wins in a single season of Australian touring car championship racing, with the DJR Team Penske driver claiming his 17th victory.
The New Zealander delighted a patriotic crowd at Pukekohe Raceway on a weekend where he and compatriot Shane van Gisbergen – the victor of Saturday’s race – dominated the season’s sole trans-Tasman round.
Through no fault of his own, however, McLaughlin’s win was shrouded in controversy after the bungled deployment of the Safety Car on Lap 13 which put early frontrunners Jamie Whincup, Lee Holdsworth, Fabian Coulthard and Cameron Waters all out of contention.
Race strategies on Sunday’s 70-lap race were wide open, with some runners like Holdsworth, Coulthard and Waters opting for ultra-early visits to the pit lane to clear one of their two compulsory stops.
Whincup elected to run longer on his first stint, peeling into the pits as he came upon the backmarker traffic on the twelfth lap and emerging ahead of Holdsworth, Waters and Coulthard who had already stopped.
Moments later the race took a controversial turn when David Reynolds’ Erebus Holden was left stranded with a throttle problem, forcing officials to summon the Safety Car into action.
The Safety Car incorrectly picked up Whincup (the effective race leader) instead of McLaughlin (the actual race leader), which handed those who hadn’t made their first pit stops a tyre change and fuel top-up with minimal penalty.
Whincup then ignored instructions from his Red Bull Holden Racing Team crew to hold station and overtook the Safety Car, which subsequently waved the three following Mustangs through before picking up Whincup once again.
The delay saw Holdsworth demoted to eleventh, ahead of Waters and Coulthard, while Whincup had effectively claimed the race lead ahead of McLaughlin and van Gisbergen who had pitted during the Safety Car.
After the race was restarted, Whincup was handed a drive-through penalty which handed the lead to McLaughlin, who then took control of the race and fended off repeated challenges by van Gisbergen until the chequered flag.
The ever-consistent Chaz Mostert (Tickford Racing Ford) finished in third place, atoning for the confusion that punished his teammates Waters (P14) and Holdsworth (P15). Mostert held off a late charge by Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing Holden) to claim the final spot on the podium, with the gap between the two just half a second.
The Safety Car chaos helped a number of drivers claim unexpected top-ten results, chief among them being Todd Hazelwood (Matt Stone Racing Holden) and Simona de Silvestro (Kelly Racing Nissan) who both claimed career-best finishes in fifth and seventh respectively.
Whincup finished sixteenth after serving his penalty and later gave race officials a foolish spray, describing the stewards as “people [who] are just cruising back, just having a few glasses of red each night, and rocking up to the track and the brain’s not with it.”
His outburst earned him an almost immediate ‘please explain’ from the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport which will investigate whether the multiple champion has breached the National Competition Rules. He could face a sanction for his actions, with the possible punishments being as severe as a monetary fine or even a race ban.
|2019 Australian Supercars Championship ITM Auckland SuperSprint – Race 24 Final Classification (70 laps)|
|1.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power Racing Team||1:17:38.792|
|2.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing||+ 1.898|
|3.||Chaz Mostert||Supercheap Auto Racing||+ 6.043|
|4.||Nick Percat||NZ Safety Blackwoods Racing||+ 6.566|
|5.||Todd Hazelwood||Bigmate Racing||+ 31.654|
|6.||Scott Pye||Mobil 1 Racing||+ 43.751|
|7.||Simona de Silvestro||Team Harvey Norman||+ 44.932|
|8.||Mark Winterbottom||Irwin Racing||+ 47.365|
|9.||Richie Stanaway||Boost Mobile Racing||+ 50.136|
|10.||James Golding||Boost Mobile Racing||+ 50.952|
|11.||Rick Kelly||Castrol Racing||+ 53.074|
|12.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 53.406|
|13.||Will Davison||Milwaukee Racing||+ 53.864|
|14.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 54.160|
|15.||Lee Holdsworth||The Bottle-O Racing||+ 55.603|
|16.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing||+ 55.969|
|17.||James Courtney||Mobil 1 Racing||+ 58.178|
|18.||Tim Slade||Machinery House Racing||+ 58.733|
|19.||Andre Heimgartner||Plus Fitness Racing||+ 1:01.575|
|20.||Anton de Pasquale||Penrite Racing||1 lap behind|
|21.||Garry Jacobson||RABBLE.club Racing||1 lap behind|
|22.||Macauley Jones||Team CoolDrive||2 laps behind|
|23.||Jack Le Brocq||Truck Assist TEKNO Racing||2 laps behind|
|24.||David Reynolds||Penrite Racing||16 laps behind|
- Mark Winterbottom – who provisionally finished P6 – was issued a 15-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Image via DJR Team Penske
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