CAFE CHAT: Scott McLaughlin relishing soft tyres
Scott McLaughlin’s career continues to evolve at a rapid pace.
The crack teenage Kiwi driver validated his position as a main game driver by winning the final heat of the V8 Supercars Challenge at the AGP support races at Albert Park.
After carefully choosing his future, which included a couple of team choices for 2013, McLaughlin has seamlessly eased into his new environment at the Garry Rogers Motorsport operation.
Many of his peers and those more experienced in the V8 paddock acknowledged McLaughlin’s triumph as a performance which has more than solidified his position in the top class.
After winning the Development Series a week after taking the New Zealand V8 SuperTourer title last year, McLaughlin has arrived in the big league as one of the most highly decorated rookies in category history.
Speedcafe.com’s Gordon Lomas caught up with McLaughlin amid the lingering hoopla surrounding his historic moment at Albert Park.
SPEEDCAFE: Could you have envisaged so soon in your main game career that a win would come so soon?
Scott McLaughlin: No, not at all. It has happened much faster than I thought. It was just nuts. On the grid I thought we would be good enough for a top three at best maybe. The car felt pretty good but to be leading and then going around that final lap was surreal. It’s definitely a confidence booster for the coming rounds.
SPEEDCAFE: The last six months or so most seem like a bit of a blur in many respects?
McLaughlin: It think around Townsville last year or even Bathurst is where it all started to come together and I knew I was fighting for those two Championships and I think that also helped me to become a bit more mature in my driving. And that has really helped give me a platform this year to cope with longer distances like Adelaide and to race people cleanly. It’s been a real surreal journey so far and I don’t really want it to stop at the moment. I’m on a pretty good roll.
SPEEDCAFE: So the next thing is to transform that Albert Park speed into Championship form?
McLaughlin: Well we have got a good base there for a soft tyre now. The car was fantastic on it all weekend. We were in the 10 and it’s not like I’m nearly spearing off to try to get the time out of the car. I’m still building up myself. Even on my qualifying lap I said to Richard (Scott’s engineer Hollway) that there is probably a little bit more in me as well. I’m still getting used to the tyre. It’s the first time I’ve driven on the Dunlop soft tyre. The car gives you a lot of confidence and is very forgiving and saves its tyres so hopefully in the coming rounds we will be in good stead.
SPEEDCAFE: So you’ve obviously adapted to the soft tyre characteristics pretty quickly and the experience on the Hankook’s back in NZ has helped I presume?
McLaughlin: I think with running on that Hankook tyre in the SuperTourers the soft tyre in Australia, while it is not exactly the same it seems to have very similar characteristics to what we run in New Zealand. I enjoy driving on that tyre as you probably understand. I think it suits my driving style as you can be a little more aggressive with it. You have to be quite nice with it to save the tyre as well.
SPEEDCAFE: Traditionally the Albert Park event is not one of Garry Rogers’ favourite events on the calendar so did he have any instructions for you like not to put a scratch on the car?
McLaughlin: Garry actually rang me on the Wednesday and said ‘go and have some fun but don’t do anything stupid.’ It was just a general chat really. Then on Sunday it was actually the first time Garry has ever come out to a GP race and we won. So he might have to come to Albert Park every year now. He was really excited so it was cool.
SPEEDCAFE: Now that you’ve got a few meetings under your belt I’m interested to know what your observations are of GRM which traditionally is a good little team that can punch above its weight?
McLaughlin: Well I guess you can say we are dark horses and Alex (Premat) is fast and as we showed I can be quite fast too so we’ve got good packages and we have a couple of engineers who work together quite well. It’s sort of like a big family and everyone looks after each other.
There is no backstabbing and it’s pretty cool. I think that then helps with your driving and you are more calm. The way we are going at the moment and our attitude and the way our cars are handling we are heading in the right direction.
Garry loves the team atmosphere and that the driver’s are not on their high horse. I’ve always been the same and love knocking around with the boys. It’s just the little things like I recently was given a GRM Yearbook from 2012. Those things help and there are a few people in the team who have been here for 15 years.
SPEEDCAFE: Have you set yourself any personal goals to reach by the end of the year and if so are you now resetting them?
McLaughlin: I want to beat Jono Webb’s record of the best rookie in the series in their debut year which is 13th after winning the Development Series the year before. I want to finish every race and finish every race in the top 15.
That is pretty much the goal and I don’t want to change that. If you finish every race in the top 15 I’ll achieve my goal. I’m not changing anything and I’ll just keep going and learn as much as I can.