PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 06: (L-R) 3rd place Craig Lowndes driver of the #888 Autobarn Lowndes Racing Holden Commodore ZB, 1st place Scott McLaughlin driver of the #17 Shell V-Power Racing Team Ford Falcon FGX and 2nd place David Reynolds driver of the #9 Erebus Penrite Racing Holden Commodore ZB celebrate on the podium after race 12 for the Supercars Perth SuperSprint at Barbagello Raceway on May 6, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Despite all the challenges; including tyre degradation and near misses due to a poor qualifying place, Scott McLaughlin drove from 19th place to win the Sunday race at the Perth Supersprint round, of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

Scott McLaughlin withstands all challenges at Perth Supersprint

The impressive display from the 24 year old was his fourth consecutive win. Coming after his clean-sweep at the Phillip Island round, the duel wins at the Baragalo Raceway in Perth cements the Ford drivers position at the top of the Supercars championship table.

The results extend his lead from 60 points, to a massive 158 points ahead of fellow Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen (see bottom of page).

“I’m stoked. I couldn’t believe it,” McLaughlin said when interviewed post-race. “These guys just gave me an unbelievable car and the strategy was on point.”

“I am jumping up and down – that was awesome”.

His raw enthusiasm and pleasure is clear to see. After the disastrous conclusion to his failed 2017 championship bid, it must feel like he is ‘walking on air’. And driving like it too.

Race 11 of the series on Saturday, was a perfect example of race car control. He topped the Saturday qualifying, took Pole Position and then made it look easy, to run away with an start-to-finish victory.

He was only challenged at times. Gaining a significant advantage, McLaughlin was not aware of the frantic final stages. Tickford Racing driver Mark Winterbottom was ‘driving the life’ out of his Falcon. Rushing up the field, he would find a podium finish with some exceptional overtaking manoeuvres.

It still did not stop McLaughlin from returning a perfect-score. Ecstatic then, the driver would have assumed that he could take it easy on Sunday – and that mentality almost cost him ‘big time’ on the second race day.

Missing the cut-off for Sunday qualifying, he missed the Top ten shootout – which was won by Jamie Whincup. That forced the Shell V Power team to enter the race from the back of the field. And a much more eventful beginning to his drive on Sunday!

First lap incident almost takes McLaughlin from the field

Fans often watch touring cars, and indeed the V8 Supercars because of the ‘close contact racing’. Brushing up against another one tonne vehicle often can turn to an incident, and coming up over the hill, the cars collided midfield. From the Shell V Power cars forward-facing camera below, you can see how McLaughlin was fortunate to dance his way past trouble – it caught his team mate Fabian Coulthard, who would finish down the field as a result.

With the race continuing, it would lead to the Race Stewards looking at this incident (among others) at the conclusion of the day*. But as the DJR Team Penske engineers caught their breaths, they witnessed a sensational drive from Scott McLaughlin.

Almost invigorated by the close call, he first took advantage of a yellow flag. Bolting into the pits, new tyres and gas were thrown in, and he was able to undercut a dozen cars. It would be one of the strategic ‘moves of the day’.

Strategy plays a huge part. And at Barbagalo, with the rough aggregate surface, tyre degradation can lead to a one second loss of speed and traction per lap. Tyres were only lasting for no more than 30 laps, so in an 83 lap race, who had the best rubber near the end would benefit most.

David Reynolds challenges McLaughlin in final stages

The Falcons had an edge over the Holden Commodore’s. But to the credit of Erebus Penrite Racing driver David Reynolds, he was able to match the DJR car ahead. What he couldn’t do unfortunately, was get on the tail of the Kiwi.

His was not the most dramatic elevation in places during the Perth Supersprint. Folk hero Craig Lowndes, known for his late-race surges, did a spectacular job to jump from 25th place to stand on the podium. It showed the quality of his driving, saving his tyres best. Shane van Gisbergen too, had speed late in the day, but was not able to gain anymore places as Scott McLaughlin took the chequered flag for the second time this weekend.

And after securing another 300 point round, McLaughlin banks that to extend his lead to 158 points. One single race win [150 pts] ahead of the chasing pack, the New Zealand driver is in a run of form to match his performance last season.

 *Note: the Race Stewards made several investigations, after the champagne and burnouts had faded.

They looked at the early stages of the 200km race 12 that proved action-packed. Four incidents taking place across the first eight laps.

Race teams would lodge requests to follow-up on several more, but at the end of the day, no further action would be taken against any individual or team.

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