Tuesday, Oct 8 06:00pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Scott McLaughlin would “feel empty” if career ended without Bathurst 1000 win

Shell V-Power Racing Team driver Scott McLaughlin says this year is his best chance yet to win the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. 


This weekend will mark McLaughlin’s eighth attempt at trying to win the big one at Mount Panorama. In his eight starts, he’s claimed just one podium, which came last year alongside Alexandre Prémat in the final year of the Ford Falcon FG X. 


Unlike the seven previous years, McLaughlin comes into this year’s race in the strongest position possible behind the wheel of his Ford Mustang. 


With 16 wins and two additional podiums from 22 races, the Kiwi holds a staggering 598-point lead in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. 


His lead is so large that he could DNF the Bathurst 1000 and the two Gold Coast 600 races and at worst only be two points behind Shane van Gisbergen if the Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver were to win all thee races. 


With such a commanding lead, McLaughlin said his approach to the Bathurst 1000 this year is totally different.


“I want to try and enjoy it this week,” McLaughlin said on his podcast Balls & Bumpers.


“I’ve come into it with a position that not many championship leaders have been in before, especially not myself. I’m a couple of rounds ahead on points. I’ve got an opportunity to just enjoy the whole week and soak it all up and have a real crack at it. 


“I’m really calm about that and really excited. I know that if we do a good job we’ll be there or thereabouts. I think what’s going to keep me going is the vibe I get from everything. I’m really excited to enjoy it this week.”


For McLaughlin, he said winning the race would be a dream come true and bigger than his maiden Supercars title he claimed last year. 


“The race is everything to me. It’s one of those things where if I ended my career and hadn’t won Bathurst I’d feel a little empty in some ways. I’ve still got a few more years, I’m young, but I want to do it soon and get on with it. This year is the best chance I’ve ever had to do it.


“It’s just the final piece of the puzzle. It’s the holy grail. If it did happen, it’s quite possibly the biggest moment of my career. Even above the championship.


“If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I know I’m going to be doing every bit I can, executing the best I can. Making sure that my team is up to scratch and ready for the biggest race of our lives. I think we’re in with a good shot.”


McLaughlin and Premat are undisputed favourites for this weekend’s race, but they’ll be pushed hard by the veteran combination of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes as well as Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander, both out of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team stable.


Factor in an adjustment to the aerodynamic package of the Holden Commodore ZB, and they could be a force to be reckoned with in what is expected to be a fast-paced race. 


“You need car speed,” he said. “They are going to be our main competition. I think especially the Garth and Shane combination. Garth is always strong around there. As you say with Lowndsey, last year’s winner, he’s going to be on form. 


“It takes a lot more than just car speed to win that race. It takes luck. It takes the right calls at the right time. Hopefully, that falls our way.”


The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 begins on Thursday with Practice 1 at 11:55 am NZST. A co-driver only session will take place at 2:45 pm with the day’s running concluding with Practice 3 at 6:00 pm.