Scott McLaughlin is confident his Ford Mustang package will remain strong amid ‘unknowns’ surrounding the pace of the aero tweaked Holdens at this weekend’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint.
The combination of McLaughlin and the Shell V-Power Racing Mustang has proved formidable this season, winning 16 of 22 races to date to hold an ominous 573 point lead in the championship.
Although expected to continue his dominance, he and the rest of the field may face a sterner challenge from Holden teams following the championship’s move to approve changes to the ZB Commodore’s aero package.
Three adjustments will be made to the cars, namely the removal of the high-level brake light detail from the tailgate, the addition of a gurney to the rear wing endplates along the trailing edge and the extension of the front undertray.
McLaughlin admits there are some unknowns regarding the pace of the Holdens this weekend but expects to still be there or thereabouts at Pukekohe.
“It’s an unknown (how the Holdens will go after the changes),” McLaughlin told Speedcafe.com.
“There’s been a number of changes this year and people thought things were going to change and stuff like that.
“We just get out there and do our business and worry about what we need to worry about, and keep focusing on that sort of stuff, and hopefully we can just keep consolidating points,
“But it’s going to be interesting in a few weeks (Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000). It is what it is, you’ve got to just roll with the punches I guess.
“We work hard as a team to make sure we’re there or thereabouts at each round.
“I think we’ll be still there and thereabouts again and I still think we’ll be pretty fast, but it’s just a matter of who’s around us.”
McLaughlin able to laugh off 2018 ‘park in’ clash
Last year’s trip to New Zealand saw McLaughlin involved in a fractious and hard fought fight with Triple Eight and then title protagonist and countryman Shane van Gisbergen.
The drivers shared the spoils in the races with van Gisbergen coming out on top in Saturday’s race despite overcoming a five-second penalty for contact between the pair at the hairpin, while McLaughlin triumphed on Sunday.
Van Gisbergen then faced a stewards inquiry for spinning wheels in pit lane during his stop and a subsequent appeal from DJR Team Penske that ultimately failed, seeing the Triple Eight driver keep the win.
However, arguably one of the most memorable moments in last year’s campaign was the ‘park in’ after Saturday’s race when van Gisbergen left restricted room for McLaughlin, forcing DJRTP to drag the #17 Falcon back so their driver could get out of his car.
Almost 12 months on, McLaughlin harbours no ill feeling toward his rival and is now able to laugh over the incident having rewatched the moment in the lead up to this weekend’s race.
“It was funny, I was watching the races from last year, a couple of days ago, and it was pretty funny, looking back at it. It was quite cool for the category I guess,” he added.
“Even looking back at the incident (in the race) now I’m still surprised he got a penalty for that.
“But then the park in, and then obviously from his point of view it was a mistake, whatever he wants to say.
“But then you get to Sunday it was the complete opposite, you can just see how determined I was. Red Bull were all of a sudden on the back foot.
“I knew that he was probably using that tactic to get in my head and then when it failed, he obviously said it was a mistake, or whatever.
“But look, we’re good now. Out of most people in the field barring my team-mate, I probably respect Shane the most.
“We’ve always had good battles, and it’s hard but fair, we don’t give each other more than an inch of room, but it’s always good racing.”
Although currently occupying a massive championship lead, McLaughlin has added motivation for this weekend’s trip to Pukekohe as he performs in front of an expectant home crowd.
Action begins with opening practice on Friday.