Scott McLaughlin says if his former Dick Johnson Racing team can re-find their competitive step, then Triple Eight will “crack under pressure.”
Triple Eight and their Kiwi driver Shane van Gisbergen has been on imperious form since the 2021 season began last month.
Van Gisbergen has so far clinched victories in all five races. He now holds a commanding lead at the top of the standings over teammate Jamie Whincup.
Meanwhile, reigning champions DJR have suffered a turbulent start to the new year. Armed with an all-new driving pairing and dealing with Team Penske’s withdrawal, the team has only managed to rack up a sole podium finish this season and are sixth in the team’s standings.
However, McLaughlin is hopeful that his former championship-winning squad can bounce back after a tough opening two rounds.
He says Triple Eight relies on confidence to succeed but is susceptible to collapsing under pressure when their rivals become more competitive.
“He has got off to an unbelievable start. Shane and Triple Eight are very confidence driven,” McLaughlin told The Herald Sun.
“When they are confident, Shane is very good. When his team is confident, they are very good.
“That’s one thing we did over a number of years, four or five years, we put pressure on them, and they cracked.
“[Triple Eight] should have probably won the championship in 2018. But they made mistakes and we won it. It was the same in 2017, where I felt they did a similar thing.
“They managed to hold on with my mistakes, but I feel like they are a team that once you start out-qualifying them, you put pressure on them in the race, that they will crack like anyone.
“I certainly think they are beatable, but people have got to get faster and they (Triple Eight) have got their stuff right.”
Sandown was a weekend to forget for DJR, with Anton de Pasquale and Will Davison only finishing inside the top-five on two occasions.
McLaughlin is still backing his former team but suggested that the next round in Symmons Plains will again be challenging for DJR.
However, he says that after Tasmania, the team should be able to find a U-Turn in speed and be challenging up the front again.
“It’s been a very difficult start for them. Bathurst, with two new drivers, it’s always difficult,” McLaughlin said.
“There’s no miracle, you can’t go there with two new drivers and expect crazy results, but I thought they did an awesome job. To be honest, our cars last year at Bathurst were terrible. Anton getting a provisional pole was fantastic.
“They have gone to Sandown now, which was the one track that I never won at. We just weren’t fast enough, and Triple Eight were so good.
“[Now] they got Tasmania, and I think it is going to be another tough one, but if they keep getting points and stuff, that’s the main thing.
“They just need to get through this period because they will have gone to three tracks that are very strong for Triple Eight — and others — and have not necessarily been our best tracks.
“I back them for sure. If they get some time and some experience in the cars and experience with the driver and engineers and then get to some tracks where the car handles well and we know the set-up and all that sort of stuff, they will be fine.”
Main Image: Jack Delsini