Scott McLaughlin has successfully bounced back from Saturday’s 15-second penalty to claim a clear-cut victory in race 14 of the 2020 Supercars Championship, leading home Jamie Whincup and Fabian Coulthard at the EasyBet Darwin Triple Crown. The result sees McLaughlin equal the late, great Peter Brock for Australian touring car championship race wins, on 48.
McLaughlin’s teammate Coulthard actually led the race early, only to make a mistake when McLaughlin got past him during the pit cycle. This dropped Coulthard to third, costing the squad the chance of a 1–2 finish. Shane van Gisbergen was next best, in fourth, after holding off a rapid David Reynolds assault in the final laps.
“My own mistake, sorry to the guys for yesterday,” said McLaughlin, noting the penalty he incurred yesterday. “Great start from Fabs. It was the best start I’ve had for a long time, but he just smashed me. […] But overall I’m really proud. Two cars on the podium for Shell V-Power Racing, it’s ideal.”
The majority of the field started the race on soft tyres of varying conditions. The DJR Team Penske pair dominated the race early; Coulthard over McLaughlin, after the former won the race to turn one off the race start. The early phase saw them build a comfortable gap to Jamie Whincup in third, in an opening few laps far less chaotic than yesterday’s showdown.
A flurry of contenders behind the leaders stopped on lap six for tyres, including Whincup, Nick Percat, Anton de Pasquale, and Cameron Waters. Coulthard reacted on the following lap to cover off the strategy. Some opted for two new rear tyres, while others grabbed both of their new tyres on the right-hand side only. Almost all grabbed softs.
McLaughlin stopped on lap seven to follow the train, and rejoined the field ahead of Coulthard. The former race leader looked keen to try and dive up the inside of McLaughlin at turn one, but instead locked his inside wheel and ran wide into the grass. This killed Coulthard’s gap, dropping him behind Whincup and into the middle of a four-car battle pack.
The duo of David Reynolds and Scott Pye persevered much longer without stopping to lead well into the race. Pye eventually stopped on lap 19, with Reynolds continuing to circulate with healthy pace for a much longer period. The 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner finally stopped with 11 laps to go.
This handed McLaughlin the lead over Whincup, Coulthard, Percat, and van Gisbergen. Reynolds inserted himself into sixth over de Pasquale, Chaz Mostert, Waters, and Andre Heimgartner.
With McLaughlin blazing away with a gap of almost four seconds, his grasp on the lead was almost unquestioned. Instead the big battle to follow was the dice for fourth between Percat, van Gisbergen, Reynolds, de Pasquale, and Mostert. Percat had to surreneder the spot to van Gisbergen with nine laps to go after the Kiwi dived him cleanly at turn one.
Percat then spent the run from turn one to turn four side by side with Reynolds, with the latter almost looping after being ushered wide at turn five. Reynolds got the pass done at the end of the lap, then pushed on to pursue van Gisbergen for fourth.
On much healthier tyres, Reynolds had much more pace than van Gisbergen. But after shadowing the Kiwi for a handful of laps, his edge appeared to have deserted him. McLaughlin would claim the win by almost two seconds over Whincup, with Coulthard another five seconds behind in the end. Van Gisbergen ended up successfully holding off Reynolds, with Percat leading home the tightly-sowed train of de Pasquale, Mostert, Waters, and Heimgartner in 10th.
There’s one final race to come at Darwin, kicking off at 5.25pm NZST.
|Shane van Gisbergen
|Anton de Pasquale
|Jack Le Brocq