Scott McLaughlin says he will be watching with intrigue to see who in the current Supercars paddock will step up to fill the influential role of the outgoing Jamie Whincup.
Earlier this week, Whincup announced he would step away as a full-time driver at the end of the year and take over as the new team principal and managing director of Triple Eight.
Whincup will replace the team’s founder Roland Dane, whose leadership on the Supercars grid over his career is something McLaughlin praises.
“Roland is a Roger Penske/Michael Andretti-type figure within the paddock,” he said on The Week in IndyCar podcast.
“He has got a very strong presence and certainly gets his opinions out there, which has helped move the sport forward, both negatively and positively.
“For him to step down is a big deal.”
Speaking on the retirement of Whincup, McLaughlin believes the seven-time series champion pushed him into becoming a better driver.
“I call him the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) and I was privileged to race with him in his prime, in the very peak of his career.
“I sent him a text the other day saying good luck with everything, and you made me a better race car driver.
“Jamie is a fierce rival. He pushes you to no end. But he is very respectful as well, and those are the battles you most enjoy.”
McLaughlin added that Supercars must now work on finding someone new to fulfil the abstract role Whincup had as a figurehead of the sport. He says Whincup played an important role in generating fans to the series and his absence will be sorely felt.
“Supercars are going to miss someone like [Whincup],” McLaughlin said.
“Regardless of whether he is stepping back into the team owner role, he is a name. He has legend status in regards to motorsport.
“And not only in motorsport but in circles of the Australian Football League (AFL) and people in other sporting circles. They know who he is.
“So, what I am waiting to see in the category is who is going to step up and kind of take over that.
“That is what the sport is going to need. They are going to need an identity and a face for all the drivers, especially for young fans.
“[Supercars] has certainly lost that with Jamie and hopefully someone steps up.”
McLaughlin wrapped up his first day of pre-season testing at Sebring during the week and turns his attention to the championship’s opening round on April 18.
Meanwhile, the first round of the 2021 Supercars Championship will be the Mount Panorama 500 over February 27-28.