Scott McLaughlin has taken a record-breaking 17th win of the 2019 Supercars Championship after Jamie Whincup was penalised for passing the Safety Car at Pukekohe.
Whincup was incorrectly picked up by the Safety Car despite being further back in the field due to having already taken his first compulsory pit stop, which prompted him to pass it without permission.
When he was handed a pit lane penalty shortly after the restart, McLaughlin inherited a lead in Race 24 which he would not relinquish.
The Shell V-Power Racing Team driver won the ITM Auckland SuperSprint finale by 1.8976s over Whincup’s Red Bull Holden Racing Team team-mate Shane van Gisbergen, while Chaz Mostert held off Nick Percat to take the final podium position.
The victory means McLaughlin breaks Craig Lowndes’ 23-year-old record for most championship race wins in a Supercars/ATCC season, while van Gisbergen won the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy having prevailed in Race 23 a day prior.
Whincup took the chequered flag in 16th position in the #88 ZB Commodore having dropped back to 20th immediately after serving his punishment.
He had qualified on Armor All Pole Position and led Lee Holdsworth (#5 The Bottle-O Mustang), Fabian Coulthard (#12 DJR Team Penske Mustang), Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy Mustang), McLaughlin (#17 Mustang), and van Gisbergen (#97 ZB Commodore) to the first corner.
Van Gisbergen briefly got ahead of McLaughlin on the opening lap but they ran otherwise unchanged until the first pit stops began, with Mostert (#55 Supercheap Auto Mustang) the most prominent mover having passed Will Davison (#23 Milwaukee Mustang) for seventh on Lap 2.
The top four had been into the lane, with Whincup retaining the effective lead, when a Safety Car was called on Lap 14 due to David Reynolds’ #9 Penrite ZB Commodore going into “limp mode or something”, he reported on his radio.
That intervention led to a race-changing course of events when the Safety Car waited to pick up Whincup, who was not the official race leader at the time and passed the dayglo red Mustang on the back straight despite not being shown green lights.
Holdsworth, who was second to Whincup on the road and second on that strategy, opted to wait until he and those behind were belatedly signalled to go by the Safety Car.
Whincup did have the official race lead at the time of the restart on Lap 18, with three lapped cars protecting him from second placed McLaughlin, who was able to sink 98 litres out of the 120-litre mandatory fuel fill in a repeat of the strategy machinations which played out under similar circumstances a day earlier.
Van Gisbergen was third and Mostert fourth, having reportedly taken on 89 and 98 litres respectively given they also stopped under yellows, while Holdsworth was 11th, the first of those unduly delayed by the Safety Car.
Whincup was 3.6s up on McLaughlin at the end of the first lap back under green flag but was soon issued a drive-through penalty for a breach of Safety Car procedure.
He took the penalty immediately, on Lap 24, and dropped to 20th having led by 7.7s at that point.
Whincup’s team boss, Roland Dane, was somewhat critical of Race Control but also his driver.
“To be honest, it’s not good enough, but I can understand a little bit of the confusion because he wasn’t the leader; but the lights were on,” said Dane during the race.
When asked who made the call, Dane explained, “We couldn’t see the Safety Car; he can.
“He has to make the call and if the yellow lights are on, you don’t go past; there could be a major incident up the road where they’ve decided that they’re not even going to try and pick up the leader.
“To be honest, I think there’s some confusion because he wasn’t the leader and the reality is they should have let everyone through then, but the lights were on.
“Race Control need to do a better job; it’s the sort of thing that happens here because you’ve got such a short lap and a long pit lane.
“That’s how these things end up with that because you get traffic intermingled, they’re a lap down, etc. That’s how it happens, but we still should be better than that and so should Jamie.”
In any event, McLaughlin had inherited the lead of the motor race by around a second from van Gisbergen, with Mostert by then in third position.
Van Gisbergen drifted to 2.4s back from his fellow New Zealander by the time he took his second pit stop at the end of Lap 39 and he had to fight hard to stay ahead of Mostert, who pitted four laps earlier, when he rejoined.
DJR Team Penske seemingly responded by pitting McLaughlin a lap later and he resumed around four seconds up on van Gisbergen, with an off-sequence Anton De Pasquale (#99 Erebus ZB Commodore) between them.
The margin between effective first and second positions ebbed and flowed on the run home but van Gisbergen was not a serious threat to McLaughlin, whose championship lead is now the equivalent of almost two full rounds at 598 points.
“I completely forgot about it,” said McLaughlin regarding Lowndes’ record.
“I wanted so badly to do this on New Zealand soil and yeah, so stoked.
“I did everything so I’m glad I crossed the finish line straight, everything was pretty cool.
“Really proud of our team to be up there with a guy like him (Lowndes); I’m a lucky guy driving a cool car and just a proud New Zealander trying to do my thing.”
Van Gisbergen consolidated second position in the championship as he effectively won the round.
Mostert had his mirrors full of Percat (#8 NZ Safety Blackwoods ZB Commodore) in the final laps, just as they were when the field was let loose after the sole Safety Car of the race, but held on as they finished third and fourth respectively.
Todd Hazelwood (#35 Matt Stone Racing ZB Commodore) similarly ended up in fifth, while Scott Pye (#2 Mobil 1 ZB Commodore) was officially classified sixth given Mark Winterbottom (#18 Irwin Tools ZB Commodore), who crossed the finish line in that position, had time added for pit lane speeding.
Winterbottom was therefore officially eighth, behind Simona De Silvestro, who bagged a career best seventh in her #78 Harvey Norman Altima.
The Boost Mobile Racing entries of Richie Stanaway (#33 ZB Commodore) and James Golding (#34 ZB Commodore) rounded out the top 10, while Coulthard was 12th having not been able to make any major gains by stopping a second time to top up under Safety Car.
Whincup finished 55.9687s behind the winner, with a new lap record of 1:02.3719s scant consolation if at all, while Reynolds did end up a finisher at 16 laps down.
The next event of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, from October 10-13.
Results: Race 24, ITM Auckland SuperSprint
|1||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Mustang GT||70||1:17:38.7925|
|2||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:17:40.6901|
|3||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Mustang GT||70||1:17:44.8358|
|4||8||NZ Safety Blackwoods Racing||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:17:45.3586|
|5||35||Bigmate Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:10.4469|
|6||2||Mobil 1 Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:22.5439|
|7||78||Team Harvey Norman||Simona De Silvestro||Nissan Altima||70||1:18:23.7248|
|8||18||Irwin Racing||Mark Winterbottom||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:26.1574|
|9||33||Boost Mobile Racing||Richie Stanaway||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:28.9282|
|10||34||Boost Mobile Racing||James Golding||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:29.7441|
|11||15||Castrol Racing||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||70||1:18:31.8664|
|12||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Mustang GT||70||1:18:32.1980|
|13||23||Milwaukee Racing||Will Davison||Ford Mustang GT||70||1:18:32.6561|
|14||6||Monster Energy Racing Team||Cameron Waters||Ford Mustang GT||70||1:18:32.9522|
|15||5||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Lee Holdsworth||Ford Mustang GT||70||1:18:34.3958|
|16||88||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:34.7612|
|17||22||Mobil 1 Racing||James Courtney||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:36.9699|
|18||14||Machinery House Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore ZB||70||1:18:37.5251|
|19||7||Plus Fitness Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Nissan Altima||70||1:18:40.3672|
|20||99||Penrite Racing||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||69||1:18:36.0600|
|21||3||RABBLE.club Racing||Garry Jacobson||Nissan Altima||69||1:18:37.8865|
|22||21||Team CoolDrive||Macauley Jones||Holden Commodore ZB||68||1:17:43.9033|
|23||19||Truck Assist TEKNO Racing||Jack Le Brocq||Holden Commodore ZB||68||1:17:50.0588|
|24||9||Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||54||1:17:47.5005|
|2||Shane van Gisbergen||2410|
|11||Anton De Pasquale||1665|
|20||Simona De Silvestro||1129|
|21||Jack Le Brocq||892|