Scott McLaughlin believes he is mentally stronger than he was at last year’s Coates Hire Newcastle 500 as he prepares to battle Shane van Gisbergen in the Supercars Championship finale.
The pair are separated by just 14 points heading in the final two races of the year, effectively making it a winner takes all duel between the pair.
It’s the second successive year McLaughlin has entered the final round vying for the championship having last year lost out to Jamie Whincup in the final race of the season.
McLaughlin believes he’s stronger mentally now than he was then, and points to Sunday’s race at Pukekohe, where he saw off a challenge from Whincup after an intense and controversial Saturday, as evidence.
“I feel like there’s a lot of stuff went on the night before and we just came back and had a crack,” said McLaughlin.
“It’s been, from 12 months ago that was probably the lowest point of my career and I feel like we’ve come back with the same position.
“I can’t be too bad in the head.
“I think regardless of what happened between myself and Shane (on the Saturday at Pukekohe), I think me and Jamie, we just fought hard,” he added.
“He was on my hammer the whole way the last sort of 30 laps. It was tough and around there; you put one tyre width wide and you’re gone.
“I’m just proud that we were able to stick to it lap after lap just getting stuff done and eventually getting the win.
“But yeah, for sure, confidence wise it was good but before even that race I believed I was better in that position.”
With 150 points available on both Saturday and Sunday, McLaughlin admitted he’s all but ignoring the points standings.
“I’m basically just pretending like we’re on equal points, we’re both starting zero and just going after it,” he said.
“If he wins and I finish third, it is his championship; it’s so tight even if you do get a good result so it’s just a matter of us trying to beat each other and if we do, that’s who will be champion.”
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship field is next on track for Armor All Qualifying at 1135 on Saturday morning ahead of the weekend’s first 95 lap race.