Scott McLaughlin could cement a third-straight Supercars Championship title in either of Sunday’s races at The Bend Motorsport Park after claiming a narrow victory over Shane van Gisbergen.
The DJR Team Penske driver had claimed pole position in the earlier knockout qualifying session. Despite a starting light glitch that saw the field need to undertake a second warm-up lap before he start he made a clean getaway off the line to hold his lead, slotting in ahead of Jack Le Brocq’s Tickford Ford and van Gisbergen’s Red Bull Racing Holden.
Le Brocq harried McLaughlin in the opening laps but was unable to find a way by, and so his team opted to call him in for an early compulsory pit stop on Lap 6 in the hope of undercutting the New Zealander.
The DJR Team Penske responded immediately called McLaughlin in on the very next tour, with the reigning champion having a comparatively quicker tyre change to stay in front and hold the effective race lead.
Staying true to the tactics that had helped them last weekend, the Triple Eight stable kept van Gisbergen out and split his tyre stints almost equally. He took his mandatory service on Lap 15 and emerged in second place ahead of Cam Waters, who had overtaken teammate Le Brocq after his Ford engine appeared to have a momentary stutter at Turn 6 shortly after his pit stop.
Van Gisbergen’s comparatively fresher tyres allowed him to close up to McLaughlin, cutting his three-second lead down to a few tenths of a second.
McLaughlin, however, held his nerve despite immense pressure from van Gisbergen to secure his twelfth race win of the season and the 55th of his career – equalling the career tally of Garth Tander who held fourth place on the all-time winners’ list.
Waters was left to complete the podium, benefiting from the mishap that befell teammate Le Brocq who was fourth.
Anton de Pasquale (Erebus Motorsport Holden) held off Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing Holden) for fifth place, while the top ten was completed by James Courtney (Tickford Racing Ford), Mark Winterbottom (Team 18 Holden), Fabian Coulthard (DJR Team Penske) and Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Racing Holden).
As McLaughlin’s realistically only title rival, it was another poor showing for Whincup who gave himself a mountain to climb after qualifying a poor fourteenth-fastest. His tenth place finish sees him lose further ground to McLaughlin in the Drivers’ Championship standings, with the seven-time title winner now 263 points behind the New Zealander.
With two further races tomorrow offering 100 points each for the race-winner, McLaughlin simply needs to have a 300-point buffer by Sunday evening to put a third successive title beyond doubt ahead of the season finale at Bathurst next month.
|2020 Australian Supercars Championship The Bend SuperSprint II – Race 28 Final Classification (31 laps)|
|1.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power Racing Team||40:23.918|
|2.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 0.647|
|3.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 6.419|
|4.||Jack Le Brocq||Supercheap Auto Racing||+ 11.301|
|5.||Anton de Pasquale||Penrite Racing||+ 13.015|
|6.||Nick Percat||R&J Batteries||+ 13.771|
|7.||James Courtney||Boost Mobile Racing||+ 20.987|
|8.||Mark Winterbottom||IRWIN Racing||+ 21.855|
|9.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 22.898|
|10.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 23.233|
|11.||Chaz Mostert||Mobil 1 TM Appliances||+ 23.566|
|12.||Scott Pye||DEWALT Racing||+ 26.238|
|13.||Lee Holdsworth||Truck Assist Racing||+ 26.574|
|14.||Andre Heimgartner||NED Whisky Racing||+ 29.331|
|15.||Bryce Fullwood||Mobil 1 TM Middy’s Racing||+ 29.725|
|16.||David Reynolds||Penrite Racing||+ 30.857|
|17.||Macauley Jones||Team CoolDrive||+ 32.103|
|18.||Garry Jacobson||Yellow Cover Racing||+ 33.220|
|19.||Todd Hazelwood||TRG Transport||+ 33.479|
|20.||Chris Pither||Team SYDNEY||+ 43.317|
|21.||Jack Smith||SCT Motor Sports||+ 51.065|
|22.||Alex Davison||Local Legends Racing||+ 51.630|
|23.||Rick Kelly||Castrol Racing||+ 51.853|
|DNF.||Jake Kostecki||UNIT Racing||Mechanical|
Image via Motorsport.com
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