Scott McLaughlin’s run of record-breaking performances has continued in Darwin. The Kiwi has won the opening race of the Coregas Darwin SuperSprint comfortably over Jamie Whincup.
It’s McLaughlin’s 49th career win, which puts him ahead of Peter Brock for total career race wins in the Australian Touring Car Championship and Supercars Championship, and fifth overall. Cameron Waters completed the podium in third; his first top-three finish since round one of the season.
After a nail-biting first run to turn one (emphasised by the field having to avoid the stalled car of Scott Pye), McLaughlin was able to steal the lead from pole-sitter Jamie Whincup. The latter was investigated for start procedure thanks to a pre-start hesitation, but no further action was taken. McLaughlin dominated the early phase. He quickly built a handy lead on Whincup, who in turn had an even bigger lead on third.
James Courtney and Cameron Waters were third and fourth early, only to be two of the earliest pitters. McLaughlin reacted on lap eight, making his stop and comfortably emerging in front of the Tickford pair. Whincup then echoed the move on the following lap; briefly emerging out of pit-lane in front of McLaughlin, only to be blasted in the braking zone.
Anton de Pasquale, Mark Winterbottom, and Nick Percat were among those to stay out for a much longer opening stint (all of them vying for positions on the edge of the top five). Shane van Gisbergen did too, noting over the radio that his tyres had been damaged while cold early in the race and deciding to take on four replacement tyres instead of just two.
Once the stops had all been purified, Percat and De Pasquale were the main pairing to watch — their fresh tyres giving them the chance to monster those around them. Apart from a long-running Pye, the field was cleaned by 12 laps to go; McLaughlin leading Whincup by over two seconds, with Waters and Courtney behind.
Percat had resumed in seventh on corrected, but quickly got by both Fabian Coulthard and Lee Holdsworth. De Pasquale had resumed behind Percat, and also made short work of the two Mustang runners. Following them was Chaz Mostert and van Gisbergen.
After a disappointing run in qualifying, Mostert looked to have a much improved car underneath him — carving up Winterbottom in a fabulous exchange spanning turns one to five, before getting by Coulthard with six laps to go. A lap later, van Gisbergen pulled an excellent fake-right dive-left move into the final corner on Coulthard.
At the front McLaughlin’s grasp on first couldn’t be stopped, with the stationary car of Chris Pither on the run to turn three not enough to cause a safety car shake-up in the dying laps. His gap over Whincup slowly grew to almost three seconds by the chequred flag, where he’d claim his sixth race win of the season.
Waters complated the podium with a quiet race, over Courtney, Percat, and de Pasquale. With van Gisbergen nabbing Mostert, he spent the final lap trying to steal seventh from Holdsworth. But, didn’t quite have the time to get the move done. Coulthard completed the top 10.
|1||Scott McLaughlin||38 laps|
|6||Anton de Pasquale||18.773|
|8||Shane van Gisbergen||24.979|
|DNF||Jack Le Brocq|