Supercars title contender Jamie Whincup says he would have given himself a penalty for the incident involving Scott McLaughlin had he been in Craig Baird’s position.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver collided with McLaughlin on the opening lap of Race 25 at The Bend Motorsport Park.
Whincup appeared to lock his rear tyres on approach to Turn 17 and hit the #17 Ford Mustang, sending McLaughlin sideways.
The seven-time champion said he could see McLaughlin was about to spin, and sought to right the sideways Shell V-Power Racing Team by straightening his #88 Holden ZB Commodore.
In the end, both drivers ended up off the road. Whincup fell to 10th while McLaughlin lost more ground to 18th.
That, in turn, gave Shane van Gisbergen the lead, who went on to finish ninth after his own battle late in the race.
Speaking after the opening race at The Bend Motorsport Park, Whincup said it was a “tough day at the office” for the championship contender.
“(McLaughlin) made a little error at the corner before, of course I was going to go down the inside… you don’t like to see two cars in the grass,” said Whincup.
“He was about to spin so I opened up the steering and straightened him up, hoping to ‘come on, let’s keep going’.
“The penalty’s harsh but it’s not harsh. I would have probably made the same decision if I was upstairs.
“It is what it is, it’s racing. I’m not going to hand it to him on a plate, we’re going to go hard and try to get some points back. Unfortunately, it was not our day.”
At the conclusion of the 24-lap affair, Whincup made his way to the DJR Team Penske garage to apologise to McLaughlin, the pair exchanging a handshake.
McLaughlin said he thought he gave Whincup sufficient space.
“It’s racing. I knew he was going to have a crack, I tried to give him the room to do it and obviously he must have hit the inside and locked the wheel and hit me.
“I pretty much knew he was probably going to be penalised after that so it was about me trying to maximise what I had from then on.”
McLaughlin went on to recover to fifth place, but whilst challenging for fourth spun Lee Holdsworth and was given a 15-second penalty that dropped him to 15th in the end.
Whincup, meanwhile, could recover and eventually finished 19th, some 30 seconds adrift of the race leaders.
The 37-year-old said he struggled to make any headway after his pit stop and penalty due to high tyre degradation.
“I felt that with about 10 to go I thought ‘we’re in a bit of trouble here (tyres)’ but there’s not much you can do about it,” said Whincup.
“Soft tyre around this place being so high grip and those big, long, loaded right handers down the bottom, she’s hard on the left rear so I don’t have much rubber left.
“We’ll try to make a tune-up for the next one to hang onto it a bit longer.”