POLL: McLaughlin’s possible Bathurst 1000 absence

Scott McLaughlin wins the 2019 Bathurst 1000

Scott McLaughlin remains far from certain to race in this year’s Repco Bathurst 1000 and, in this week’s Pirtek Poll, we ask if his absence would diminish the event.

McLaughlin is supposed to drive for the Shell V-Power Racing Team in the 2021 Bathurst 1000 but that plan continues to be struck by travel hitches.

The postponement of the Grand Prix of Long Beach to September 26 not only marked it out as IndyCar’s finale, but made it impossible for the New Zealander to clear 14 days of quarantine on his way into Australia for the Great Race.

Supercars then postponed its flagship event to November 4-7, news which was greeted with some delight by McLaughlin.

However, he could still miss out on a return to Mount Panorama this year due to post-season testing commitments in IndyCar, and/or potentially even a shortage of hotel quarantine places.

With hotel quarantine, the travel itself, and four days of track activity, McLaughlin’s Bathurst 1000 campaign would amount to a commitment of three weeks or more, assuming he comes in ‘cold’ (ie no Supercars testing beforehand).

No call has yet been made or, at least, announced, but, in the words of the 28-year-old, “IndyCar comes first over anything now.”

The prospect of the 2019 race winner missing the 2021 Bathurst 1000 is therefore hardly a slim one, but what would it mean for the event?

McLaughlin would, of course, be among the very best co-drivers in the field and, unlike a number of the other hired guns, would arrive at Mount Panorama with plenty of miles under his belt this year.

There is no doubt that he would lift the competitiveness of Dick Johnson Racing and, regardless of whether he partners Anton De Pasquale or Will Davison, that combination would be reminiscent of the days of old, when teams had the freedom to field whomever they liked in a car.

His return, a similar scenario to that which Craig Lowndes made for in 1997, would also be a fascinating subplot in itself, particularly for mainstream media.

However, as last year demonstrated, McLaughlin need not be present to make the Bathurst 1000 a contest.

Current championship leader Shane van Gisbergen won the Great Race of 2020 with Garth Tander, but their biggest challenge did not come from the driver and team which confirmed their place atop the points standings that weekend, namely McLaughlin and DJR.

Instead, it was Tickford Racing which had perhaps the best pace of any squad, all weekend, with the Cameron Waters/Will Davison duo being that which kept van Gisbergen/Tander honest.

The McLaughlin/Tim Slade entry was, to be fair, caught out by the timing of a Safety Car, 64 laps from home, but it appeared only a contender for the minor placings anyway.

Regardless of who might put their hand up this year, the Bathurst 1000 is rarely won easily, and it is rarely light on storylines; one need only look at van Gisbergen’s victory lap turned Holden tribute last year for evidence of that.

Many fans and participants would probably be relieved just to see the race happen this year, and McLaughlin might only enter their thoughts after the chequered flag if the result is something of a walkover.

Even then, if DJR or at least a Ford team wins, few will be too concerned.

However, to reiterate the point, a McLaughlin entry would certainly enhance their chances of getting that victory, and thus represents a sterner challenge to the team which currently holds the Peter Brock Trophy.

Would the multiple championship-winning Kiwi’s absence diminish this year’s Bathurst 1000? Cast your vote in this week’s Pirtek Poll.

Pirtek Poll

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