McLaughlin wins battle with Whincup and jumps into Championship lead

Scott McLaughlin
Scott McLaughlin

Scott McLaughlin won the heavyweight battle with arch rival Jamie Whincup at the WD-40 Phillip Island 500 in a cat and mouse game, at the same time assuming the lead of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship by a single point over the seven-time Champion.

The pair, as they did yesterday, went toe to toe for the best part of an hour and a half with the young tyro prevailing in the first of two 250km races this weekend.

It elevated him into the Championship lead for the first time this year in the same week Ford celebrated the Mustang returning to the sport in 2019.

“The battle between Shell V-Power Racing and Red Bull is fantastic," McLaughlin said. “I am glad to be a part of it and always had great battles with Jamie. Last year was amazing and it’s always sweet when you are on top."

Nothing epitomized the rivalry between Whincup and McLaughlin like the start of the race when the two went door to door for the first four corners at more than 230km/h on cold tires. Eventually McLaughlin relented, settling back into second.

By then the pair had leapt ahead of the rest and the third placed Shane van Gisbergen by two seconds as the field settled in for the race. The first round of pit stops did not change the order of the leaders despite McLaughlin’s team trying to jump Whincup is the pits.

Scott McLaughlin celebrates on podium
Scott McLaughlin celebrates on podium

Nissan Motorsport’s Rick Kelly, in his 500th career race, popped into third when he short-filled at the first stop in the Castrol Altima, putting him ahead of Shane van Gisbergen, David Reynolds and Craig Lowndes on the track.

The former Champion, who took the title at the same circuit in 2006, scored his first podium since the Sydney 500 in 2015 in a welcome return for the two-time Bathurst winner. It made for a Ford-Holden-Nissan podium with all three manufacturers spraying the champagne.

“It was unbelievable. The car we rolled out was very strong. I had to work for it. It looked like a steady race but that last stint we had to push hard," Kelly said.

“I am pretty excited. It has been a tough little stint lately and it’s a good reward for everyone here and back at the workshop. It was as hard as I can drive.

“It’s not a win but for us it really is, it has been a tough slog."

A head-to-head battle of the pit crews after 30 of the 57 laps would have a major bearing on the race, giving McLaughlin another chance to jump in the pits. But near identical stops meant the pair came out in the same order they entered.

With 17 laps to go and after applying enormous pressure lap after lap McLaughlin made his move. Setting it up on the straight, McLaughlin snuck underneath a fading Whincup at turn two and into the lead.

#1 in race and now in points
#1 in race and now in points

“I was working on him for ages. I needed to get closer through one, I was close there but his car was so fast down the straight, even in a tow he was pulling away from me," said McLaughlin.

Fabian Coulthard made up eight positions in the opening two laps having been sent to the back of the grid for a technical infringement with the rear wing which the team inadvertently set an incorrect angle on the rear wing of the Shell V-Power Falcon.

There were plenty of willing battles through the field throughout the race, none better that Lowndes, Van Gisbergen and Reynolds behind the leaders, then Chaz Mostert, Reynolds and rising young star Anton de Pasquale in the closing stages.

MCLAUGHLIN QUOTE: “I worked on Jamie for a few laps before making that pass, I thought about it for a while through that first stint and I knew I would have to be pretty decisive to get it done. He went just a little wide, and I threw it up the inside and made it stick. He was very strong down the straights, so I knew I wouldn’t get him there. It’s so awesome to be back on the top step at Phillip Island, I love this place and am looking forward to tomorrow."

Results

POS # DRIVER TEAM TIME POINTS
1 17 McLaughlin Shell V-Power Racing Team 1:30:50.568 150
2 1 Whincup Red Bull Holden Racing Australia +0.896 138
3 15 R. Kelly Nissan Motorsport +2.404 129
4 97 Van Gisbergen Red Bull Holden Racing Australia +9.084 120
5 888 Lowndes Team Vortex +12.283 111
6 55 Mostert Supercheap Auto Racing +13.557 102
7 9 Reynolds Erebus Motorsport +18.333 96
8 99 A. de Pasquale Erebus Motorsport +18.854 90
9 230 Davison Milwaukee Racing +31.539 84
10 2 S. Pye Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing +32.344 78
11 14 Slade Brad Jones Racing +32.492 72
12 33 Tander Wilson Security Racing GRM +33.602 69
13 12 Coulthard Shell V-Power Racing Team +33.946 66
14 200 Winterbottom The Bottle-O Racing Team +34.454 63
15 7 Heimgartner Nissan Motorsport +39.800 60
16 6 C. Waters Monster Energy Racing +44.929 57
17 25 Courtney Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing +45.403 54
18 23 Caruso Nissan Nismo +45.855 51
19 56 R. Stanaway Monster Energy Racing +53.351 48
20 19 J. Le Brocq TEKNO Woodstock Racing +54.894 45
21 21 Blanchard CoolDrive Racing +1:12.600 42
22 18 Holdsworth Preston Hire Racing +1:13.471 39
23 78 S. De Silvestro Nissan Nismo +1:24.181 36
24 35 T. Hazelwood Bigmate Racing +1:28.866 33
25 34 J. Golding Wilson Security Racing GRM +7 Laps 30

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1.

Scott McLaughlin

797

2.

Jamie Whincup

796

3.

David Reynolds

743

4.

Shane van Gisbergen

738

5.

Craig Lowndes

708

6.

James Courtney

678

7.

Scott Pye

667

8.

Chaz Mostert

596

9.

Tim Slade

551

10.

Garth Tander

540

11.

Fabian Coulthard

539

TEAMS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1.

Triple Eight Race Engineering

1534

2.

Walkinshaw Andretti United

1345

3.

Shell V-Power Racing Team

1336

4.

Tickford Racing (Winterbottom/Mostert)

1120

5.

Erebus Motorsport

1087

6.

Brad Jones Racing

1083

7.

Nissan Motorsport (Kelly/Heimgartner)

804

8.

Garry Rogers Motorsport

773

9.

Triple Eight Race Engineering (Lowndes)

708

10.

Nissan NISMO (Caruso/De Silvestro)

704

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