Scott McLaughlin eased to victory in Supercars Championship Race 14 at the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown after taking the effective lead in an early pit stop.
While either of the Shell V-Power Racing Team Mustangs effectively headed all 38 laps around Hidden Valley Raceway, early leader Fabian Coulthard gifted second position to the Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s Jamie Whincup when he ran onto the grass on Lap 8.
Whincup was indeed ultimately the runner-up and Coulthard third, ahead of the second RBHRT car of Shane van Gisbergen, who staved off Penrite Racing’s David Reynolds in the latter stages.
When the lights went out, it was the outside starters who made better getaways at the pointy end of the field.
Coulthard bettered team-mate and pole-sitter McLaughlin while Whincup (#88 ZB Commodore) took up third position from fourth on the grid despite a touch from the man he started alongside, Anton De Pasquale, at the first corner.
Nick Percat (#8 R&J Batteries ZB Commodore) emerged fifth from the opening corners while Andre Heimgartner (Ned Mustang) eventually wrested sixth from van Gisbergen (#97 ZB Commodore) as they got into file exiting Turn 7, before the Triple Eight driver reclaimed the position from #7 on Lap 3.
The top 18 had started on soft tyres, including De Pasquale despite running that compound on the #99 ZB Commodore throughout Race 13, and so it was that the Penrite Racing driver was defensive to Percat in the early stages.
It was still a few tenths separating #99 and #8 when they followed Whincup into pit lane at the end of Lap 5 and while all three swapped two soft tyres, Percat jumped De Pasquale and also made up time on Whincup.
Coulthard brought his Mustang in a lap later from a lead of around 0.6s over the sister #17 entry and, unlike Whincup’s case, the DJR Team Penske crew changed the working side rubber on #12.
McLaughlin was called in next time around, also for right-hand side tyres, and a quick in-lap helped him to emerge ahead of Coulthard.
As he did so, Coulthard pinched the inside front at Turn 1 and ran off, ceding the effective second position to Whincup.
Van Gisbergen was in the nominal lead by then but pitted at the end of Lap 8 for another pair of soft rear tyres on the rear of Car #97, exiting the lane next to Percat before filing in behind the Brad Jones Racing car.
Coulthard pressured Whincup in a bid to re-take that spot but gradually dropped back from Car #88, while van Gisbergen stayed in touch with Percat.
Reynolds (#9 ZB Commodore) ran a long opening stint and was last to make his compulsory pit stop after 28 laps, at which time McLaughlin finally moved into the official lead with a touch over four seconds on Whincup after being about 4.5s up on #88 for much of the period since he took service.
Coulthard assumed third, from Percat, van Gisbergen, Reynolds, De Pasquale, Chaz Mostert (#25 Mobil 1 Appliances Online ZB Commodore), Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy Mustang), and Heimgartner.
Van Gisbergen took fourth from Percat with a straightforward pass at Turn 1 on Lap 30, before Percat and Reynolds appeared to barely avoid contact through Turns 2, 3, and 4 as the Erebus driver tried to capitalise.
Up the road, Whincup was eating into McLaughlin’s advantage but never looked a serious threat and the DJR Team Penske driver took the chequered flag with a margin of 1.4085s.
“It’s awesome, the first time for us in Pirtek Victory Lane,” said McLaughlin.
“I was a bit bummed I didn’t get to have a chance here yesterday but it was my own mistake so sorry to the guys for yesterday. I’m glad we could bounce back.
“It was a great start with Fabs. It was the best start I’ve done for a long time and he absolutely smashed me.
“A big in-lap on the way in, the boys’ pit stop was amazing, got in front, and then I saw Fabs run wide.
“I got a bit lucky there but overall I’m really proud. Two cars on the podium for Shell V-Power Racing; it’s ideal.”
Coulthard remained third, van Gisbergen held out Reynolds for fourth, and Percat finished sixth with a gaggle of cars behind him.
Rounding out the top 10 were De Pasquale despite reusing soft tyres all the way, Mostert, Waters, and Heimgartner, with Mark Winterbottom (#18 Irwin Tools ZB Commodore) 11th and James Courtney (#44 Boost Mobile Mustang) 12th.
McLaughlin’s lead over Whincup in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship standings is now 109 points while De Pasquale heads the event points in the chase for the Darwin Triple Crown title.
The final race of the weekend is set to start at 15:30 local time/16:00 AEST.
Results: Race 14, BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown
|1||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Mustang GT||38||43:59.0375|
|2||88||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:00.4460|
|3||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:06.2464|
|4||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:11.4778|
|5||9||Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:12.3306|
|6||8||R&J Batteries||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:16.2169|
|7||99||Penrite Racing||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:16.5732|
|8||25||Mobil 1 Appliances Online||Chaz Mostert||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:17.0489|
|9||6||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:17.6569|
|10||7||NED Whisky Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:18.0652|
|11||18||IRWIN Racing||Mark Winterbottom||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:18.9389|
|12||44||Boost Mobile Racing||James Courtney||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:21.6482|
|13||15||Castrol Racing||Rick Kelly||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:22.1891|
|14||5||Truck Assist Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:22.6386|
|15||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||Jack Le Brocq||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:23.1775|
|16||20||DEWALT Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:23.7411|
|17||19||Local Legends Racing||Alex Davison||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:28.7822|
|18||2||Mobil 1 TM Middy’s Racing||Bryce Fullwood||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:33.9194|
|19||35||Yellow Cover Racing||Garry Jacobson||Holden Commodore ZB||37||44:00.4434|
|20||14||Brut Military Grade||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore ZB||37||44:03.3842|
|21||22||Team SYDNEY||Chris Pither||Holden Commodore ZB||37||44:04.6620|
|22||34||UNIT Racing||Jake Kostecki||Holden Commodore ZB||37||44:15.9694|
|23||3||Team CoolDrive||Macauley Jones||Holden Commodore ZB||37||44:20.8346|
|24||4||SCT Motor Sports||Jack Smith||Holden Commodore ZB||37||44:52.5092|
|6||Shane van Gisbergen||667|
|12||Anton De Pasquale||559|
|13||Jack Le Brocq||506|