Scott McLaughlin says a penalty for title rival Jamie Whincup cushioned the blow of a “silly mistake” that saw the Supercars points leader also handed a penalty in Race 13.
McLaughlin and Whincup both received 15-second post-race penalties for separate incidents in the first race of the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway.
After a Safety Car intervention in the opening few laps of the race for a beached Jake Kostecki, McLaughlin passed James Courtney before the control line on the race restart and was penalised as a result.
For Whincup, an unsafe release in the pit lane during the Safety Car period saw him penalised too.
As a result, McLaughlin finished 20th while his Red Bull Holden Racing Team rival, who crossed the line in third, was demoted to 17th.
The points loss for McLaughlin relative to Whincup was six points. The biggest beneficiary was Chaz Mostert, who climbed from 20th to finish seventh in the race and narrowed the margin to the leading pair in third.
“It was a silly mistake on my part,” McLaughlin said in a media roundtable teleconference including Speedcafe.com.
“I just got excited, I had a run. I probably shouldn’t even be on the outside. Looking back on it right now, I should’ve just taken the inside. Just a little blue.
“It’s just unfortunate. I feel for the guys, we had a good car and I think we had a pretty solid spot there.
“But overall we’ve lost six points to Jamie so we sort of got away with one there I guess. It was a silly mistake on my part and I’m very sorry to the team for it.”
McLaughlin said he didn’t realise his mistake until after Turn 1 and hadn’t sought to redress the pass after Courtney got back through on him followed by Irwin Racing’s Mark Winterbottom.
“I didn’t think to try to redress the situation,” added McLaughlin.
“When I went into (Turn 1) and I lost the spot to Frosty (Winterbottom) and I thought ‘geez that would’ve been close with James’.
“I sort of half twigged on that I completely forgot about the passing before the line situation. It was absolutely just a rookie mistake. I didn’t try to redress, just completely forgot about it.”
The Kiwi also noted a DNF for Nick Percat, who was involved in a Lap 1 crash following contact from Whincup’s team-mate Shane van Gisbergen.
“Jamie not having an amazing day, I guess, Percat (too), he DNF’d. Basically, everyone that was close to me in the points, it wasn’t a huge day either way,” said McLaughlin.
“You look at (Anton) De Pasquale, (James) Courtney, and (Scott) Pye who were on the podium, they’re not really close to me in the championship.
“Overall, we got a little bit lucky there in regards to other people’s misfortunes.”
McLaughlin goes into the final day of the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown with two new sets of soft compound tyres at his disposal for qualifying and the two 38-lap races that follow.
“We’ve got plenty in the bank and I think we can have two really solid results tomorrow,” he said.
“We’ve got a really good, fast car. We’ve qualified really well up the front. If we can qualify well in the morning, two solid results will make up for it, but I am kicking myself for what happened.”
The field is back on-track tomorrow at 11:40 local time/12:10 AEST for a pair of qualifying sessions ahead of Races 14 and 15 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.