DJR Team Penske’s long courtship of Scott McLaughlin began with an enthusiastic introduction from Marcos Ambrose.
Following today’s signing of a multi-year deal with McLaughlin, Team Penske president Tim Cindric expanded on his squad’s pursuit of the driver.
The now 23-year-old was brought onto the radar of Cindric and team owner Roger Penske by Ambrose shortly after the American giant joined the championship at the end of 2014.
“The interest initially started with Marcos Ambrose,” explained Cindric.
“Marcos had mentioned to Roger and I that if there was ever an opportunity to sign a second driver at some point in time, he said you guys need to keep an eye on this kid named Scott McLaughlin.
“At that point I didn’t really know much about him.
“I knew he was in a new Volvo team, but Marcos was quite high on what he’d accomplished in the Dev Series (Dunlop Series) and some of the other things he’d done.
“He felt that as a young up and coming driver, he was the one to really look at.
“At that point there wasn’t an opportunity to do much. We were committed to a single-car effort (for 2015).
“It’s been well documented how we transitioned from Marcos to Scott Pye (during the early stages of 2015).
“But along the way as we looked at making our driver choice for 2016, I reached out to Garry Rogers and asked what Scott’s status was for 2016 and beyond.
“He made it quite clear that Scott wasn’t available for 2016 and we moved forward then with our signings (Fabian Coulthard and Pye) and created our team.
“Quite honestly I wasn’t sure how that was all going to work out (with McLaughlin for 2017) until the Volvo thing (announcing its impending split with Rogers) transpired here in the past couple of months.
“At that point in time we reconnected with Scott and were able to put this deal together and actually sign the paperwork today.”
Speaking to the media from DJR Team Penske’s Queensland headquarters via a teleconference, Cindric declined to give details on the length or worth of McLaughlin’s contract.
Joining Cindric at DJRTP today to sign his contract, McLaughlin affirmed Rogers’ assertion that uncertainty over GRM’s future following Volvo’s bombshell announcement proved pivotal in his decision.
“What basically made the decision for me was when the Volvo thing happened,” said McLaughlin.
“It was not a ‘fully on’ decision but it obviously made it hard for me to think… obviously it was going to be a tough gig not knowing where our future lay at Volvo.
“We’ve got a really strong package and have to focus on that at this present time, but obviously from that point onwards it made the decision a lot harder.
“I needed to put myself in a place where there was a lot of security and I feel like I’ve got that.”
Having moved into the championship with GRM as a teenager in 2013, McLaughlin admitted that telling GRM’s staff of his decision was a difficult task.
“Obviously it was a pretty tough gig, we were all pretty emotional,” he said.
“The guys I’ve had on my car and in the team I’ve known for a long time.
“It was quite hard to say ‘this is it’, but at the end of the day I just tried to tell them that we’ve got a good shot at the championship so we’ve just got to push on and get on with things.”