Scott McLaughlin has completed an unofficial Darwin triple crown with another dominant performance in Race 18 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
For the third time in as many starts at this weekend’s CoreStaff Darwin SuperSprint, the Shell V-Power Racing Team driver effectively led from start to finish, extending his championship lead to 177 points in the process.
Nick Percat finished second, over 13 seconds back, in Brad Jones Racing’s R&J Batteries ZB Commodore, and Scott Pye got a second straight podium at Hidden Valley Raceway in Team 18’s DeWalt car.
Pye’s team-mate, Mark Winterbottom, ran a relatively long first stint and climbed to fourth by the chequered flag, Shane van Gisbergen finished fifth, and Jamie Whincup was seventh in the other Red Bull Holden Racing Team entry.
According to Winterbottom, speaking just after the race, Triple Eight Race Engineering has, however, filed a protest after he made contact with van Gisbergen in making a late-race pass on Car #97.
McLaughlin (#17 Mustang) and Percat (#8 ZB Commodore) both made strong starts from the outside of the first two rows and cleared van Gisbergen (#97 ZB Commodore), the pole man, on the run to Turn 1.
Winterbottom (#18 Irwin Tools ZB Commodore) took up fourth, Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy Mustang) saw off a challenge from Chaz Mostert (#25 Mobil 1 Appliances Online ZB Commodore) to emerge fifth from the first corner, and Whincup (#88 ZB Commodore) was seventh.
McLaughlin stretched his lead over Percat beyond a full second on Lap 3, while Waters and Pye (#20 ZB Commodore), from eighth, were among the first to take their compulsory pit stops, at the end of Lap 5.
Waters’ race was over a lap later due to a clash with Whincup on the Triple Eight driver’s out lap.
Whincup tried to cover the Tickford Mustang at Turn 1 but slithered wide on cold tyres and when Waters attempted a criss-cross, he bounced off the ripple strip and into the side of #88.
The interlocking of wheels broke the right-front steering arm on Car #6, while Whincup lost a spot to Pye having been held wide.
Percat pitted from second on Lap 7 and McLaughlin from first on Lap 8, the latter rejoining with a roughly unchanged margin of a bit under two seconds over the BJR driver.
McLaughlin more than doubled that lead in the next half-dozen laps, while team-mate Fabian Coulthard (#12 Mustang), who qualified 16th, was being held up by Bryce Fullwood (#2 Mobil 1 Middy’s ZB Commodore).
Coulthard nudged the Walkinshaw Andretti United driver wide as they entered the main straight on Lap 15 and was handed a five-second penalty almost immediately.
Mostert was third when he took service on Lap 17 and re-emerged behind Whincup, before van Gisbergen pitted from the lead on Lap 18 and exited the lane between Pye and Whincup.
The latter opted to let Mostert take what was effectively fifth position at the Turn 6 hairpin on Lap 20, as van Gisbergen caught Pye.
The 2016 champion soon had Mostert in his own mirrors, while Winterbottom took his stop on Lap 26 and filed back in behind Whincup.
Once again, Whincup sidestepped a battle at Turn 6 to release Winterbottom on Lap 28, just as McLaughlin’s advantage grew beyond 10 seconds.
Winterbottom picked off Mostert easily at Turn 5 on the following lap but the next driver in the queue, van Gisbergen, would prove a much tougher task.
The New Zealander defended staunchly but finally had to cede what was, with the completion of the CPS cycle, fourth position on Lap 35 when Winterbottom gave #97 a touch as they crossed lines through Turn 5 and completed the pass out of Turn 6.
Pye was, however, too far gone for the three-and-a-bit laps which remained, meaning Winterbottom got home in fourth.
Up front, McLaughlin was untouchable in winning by 13.8356s over Percat after 38 laps.
“I love the people, love the track, and I love it when my car is like that,” said the race winner.
“Hands down, that’s the best car I’ve ever driven. All weekend, it was so solid, a good start and able to use our tyres and what we wanted to do. I’m so proud of everyone; they work so hard behind the scenes.”
Van Gisbergen claimed fifth, from Mostert and Whincup, the latter of whom finished narrowly ahead of Andre Heimgartner (#7 Ned Mustang).
Anton De Pasquale (#99 ZB Commodore) took ninth and Penrite Racing team-mate Reynolds (#9 ZB Commodore) 10th in the official classification, once Coulthard’s penalty dropped him back a spot to 11th.
Waters did not reappear and was therefore the only non-finisher.
DJRTP now leads Triple Eight by 60 points at the head of the teams’ championship, with the NTI Townsville SuperSprint coming up next weekend.
Results: Race 18, CoreStaff Darwin SuperSprint
|1||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:06.2903|
|2||8||R&J Batteries||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:20.1259|
|3||20||DEWALT Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:21.1079|
|4||18||IRWIN Racing||Mark Winterbottom||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:22.7134|
|5||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:24.6575|
|6||25||Mobil 1 Appliances Online||Chaz Mostert||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:25.9129|
|7||88||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:26.2568|
|8||7||NED Whisky Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:26.5902|
|9||99||Penrite Racing||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:27.1378|
|10||9||Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:31.1783|
|11||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:33.9936|
|12||5||Truck Assist Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:34.3606|
|13||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||Jack Le Brocq||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:34.7493|
|14||44||Boost Mobile Racing||James Courtney||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:36.3036|
|15||14||Brut Military Grade||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:40.1362|
|16||35||Yellow Cover Racing||Garry Jacobson||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:40.8427|
|17||2||Mobil 1 TM Middy’s Racing||Bryce Fullwood||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:42.3445|
|18||3||Team CoolDrive||Macauley Jones||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:45.7056|
|19||22||Team SYDNEY||Chris Pither||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:49.6348|
|20||19||Local Legends Racing||Alex Davison||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:50.5433|
|21||34||UNIT Racing||Zane Goddard||Holden Commodore ZB||38||44:51.4534|
|22||15||Castrol Racing||Rick Kelly||Ford Mustang GT||38||44:59.1290|
|23||4||SCT Motor Sports||Jack Smith||Holden Commodore ZB||38||45:00.4547|
|NC||6||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Mustang GT||6||7:35.9352|
Drivers’ championship Updated
|3||Shane van Gisbergen||979|
|12||Anton De Pasquale||753|
|15||Jack Le Brocq||652|