After a whirlwind of a season, incumbent Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin says he is happy not to be playing the points game at the season-concluding Bathurst 1000.
The Kiwi sealed a third career crown last weekend at The Bend after securing an unconquerable 300-plus points advantage over nearest rival Jamie Whincup.
It means next month’s Bathurst 1000 has zero championship implications for the field and drivers are free to duel for the victory.
For McLaughlin, a straight Bathurst crown defence without the burden of the overall championship is what he had hoped for, and he expects this year’s enduro to deliver a true Mount Panorama classic.
“I’d have never said it before last week – but I’m so glad we don’t have to play the points game at Mount Panorama, and we can just unleash on winning the biggest race of the year with no concern for the crown,” McLaughlin wrote on his Grove Racing Scott’s Corner column.
“Just on Bathurst – what a weekend it will be.
“It could be one of the greatest we’ve ever had with so many A-grade pairings gunning for the win, with no consequence over championship points.
“I’m so looking forward to returning as the defending champion, and teaming for the first time with my good friend, Tim Slade – I know how excited he is about the opportunity.
“It will be so different heading into town knowing we will have such a reduced crowd – but I hope the television numbers are enormous.”
McLaughlin became the first Kiwi in Supercars/ATCC history to claim three successive championship crowns.
But this year saw drivers tussle with a multitude of border closures and travel restrictions, while teams had to adapt to long road trips away from home.
All the turmoil across the season has meant McLaughlin views his 2020 championship the sweetest of all three.
“What a ride it’s been – I still can’t quite get a handle on it…three championships! Seriously!
“People ask me often what it means.
“I’m enormously proud of what we’ve been able to achieve – but I reckon later in life once I’m retired, the race wins, the poles, the titles will mean just that little bit more.
“But for now, it’s just so pleasing to have the title beyond 300 points so we can attack Bathurst with everything we have as a team.
“I think the chaos of 2020 actually makes this title super memorable for all the hurdles we’ve had to jump along the way. And that’s everyone in the sport.”
The DJR Team Penske driver also added his plaudits for the Victorian-based teams who were forced to cross the state border hastily and set-up a Supercars quarantine bubble to ensure the season was able to proceed.
“We as a sport are so thankful to the Victorian teams who have sacrificed so much to be away from home and away from family for such a long period to ensure this year’s season happens.
“But for all teams and drivers and staff and officials to live through what we endured at Albert Park, then the COVID shutdown, the Eseries which was such a success, and then life on the road with so many back-to-back events and so much uncertainty about race weekends even happening. It’s been truly amazing to have a championship take place.
“It’s been such a difficult year, but I’ll remember it fondly for so many reasons.
“To now have my name up there with the Skaifes, and the Lowndes and Brocks is just awesome. I’ve said it to you guys before – but I’m a lucky boy, and I’m living my dream.”