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)
Pos Driver Team Result
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 Walkinshaw Andretti United Mobil 1 Racing + 43.751
7. Simona de Silvestro Kelly Racing 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 Kelly Racing 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 Walkinshaw Andretti United Mobil 1 Racing + 58.178
18. Tim Slade Machinery House Racing + 58.733
19. Andre Heimgartner Kelly Racing Plus Fitness Racing + 1:01.575
20. Anton de Pasquale Penrite Racing 1 lap behind
21. Garry Jacobson Kelly Racing 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

Post-Race Penalties:

  • 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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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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