In this week’s Pirtek Poll, we ask you which of Scott McLaughlin’s three Supercars Championship wins is his best.
McLaughlin can now count himself alongside Jamie Whincup, Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan, and Mark Skaife as the only drivers to win three straight Virgin Australia Supercars Championships/Australian Touring Car Championships.
It’s an enviable stat for McLaughlin, who sits fourth on the all-time race winners list and has the second-most pole positions of any driver in Supercars history.
McLaughlin’s success hasn’t come without its hurdles, and if not for a disastrous end to the 2017 season he might have been a four-time champion by now.
Having shown potential with Garry Rogers Motorsport, finishing the championship third in 2016, the Kiwi was scooped by DJR Team Penske for 2017.
In the team’s third full year under the Penske umbrella, McLaughlin took the title fight to the final race of the 2017 season, falling agonisingly short in a controversial final round at Newcastle, but went on to win the next three championships.
2018: The comeback
Crestfallen by the disaster that was 2017, McLaughlin returned in emphatic fashion for 2018.
Initially, it was the Red Bull Holden Racing Team that hit the ground running on the streets of Adelaide as Shane van Gisbergen stormed to dual successes.
It wasn’t long before McLaughlin hit his stride though, going on a eight-round streak of race wins and podium finishes, only twice finishing outside the top three.
In all, McLaughlin won nine races in 2018 and finished on the podium in 11 others to win the championship.
2019: A year of controversy
McLaughlin’s second title success saw the New Zealander break a long-standing record and continue to move up the all time winners list.
The return of the Mustang to Supercars started with success straight away, McLaughlin dominating the Adelaide 500.
That form continued and after the first 18 races he had won 13 and been on the podium in two more.
Arguably the most controversial moment of all came at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, which McLaughlin won with Alex Premat.
The win was shadowed by the ‘debriss’ fiasco, which resulted in a $250,000 fine ($100,000 suspended) for the team.
Weeks later it emerged McLaughlin’s record-setting shootout lap was done with an illegal engine.
By the season’s end, McLaughlin had notched up 18 wins, eclipsing the record for most wins in a single season – previously held by Craig Lowndes.
2020: Overcoming adversity
McLaughlin’s third championship win was unlike any other as the global coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc.
After sharing the scalps with Whincup in the season-opening Adelaide 500, little did the Supercars paddock know what was to come.
In less than a month COVID-19 had arrived in Australia and taken hold, forcing the cancellation of the Formula 1 Australia Grand Prix.
As the pandemic spread, the Supercars calendar was thrown season into a 102-day break.
Once the season resumed with the Sydney SuperSprint, the championship had a new look.
Refuelling was gone, personnel restrictions were imposed, race distances had been reduced, and spectators were nowhere to be seen.
Amid calendar uncertainty, McLaughlin forged ahead and won two of the three races in Supercars’ return.
McLaughlin soldiered on in spite of challenging tyre restrictions that required drivers in some instances to use soft and hard compound tyres with a limited tyre bank to begin with.
Just one race remains in the 2020 season and McLaughlin has 13 wins to his name as well as eight more podiums.
In a few weeks’ time, he’ll head to Mount Panorama as champion-elect, vying for his 14th win of the year and a second successive Bathurst 1000 win.
With three championship wins to date, in this week’s Pirtek Poll we want to know which of McLaughlin’s title successes is his best.