McLaughlin claims Supercars championship

Scott McLaughlin celebrates his championship win. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Scott McLaughlin celebrates his championship win. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

 

IT was 2017, and Scott McLaughlin was heading into the final race of the year in Newcastle with a cushy 78-point lead over a Red Bull Holden driver. 95 laps later he finished 18th, and missed out on a maiden Supercars championship by 21 points.

Fast forward a year, 12 months of gritty driving and psychological growth after that crushing, confidence shattering defeat and he's back in the same position: holding a 53-point lead over a Red Bull Holden driver, with just 95 laps separating him and a first Supercars title.

Ninety-five laps later and McLaughlin had hardened up and learnt from his mistakes. He is finally Supercars champion. But it was not without its drama.

It all began 24 hours before, when he was pipped to the line in Race 30 by his great rival Shane van Gisbergen, the man trying to deny him a first title, by winning his second.

However, just hours before Sunday's qualifying began, Van Gisbergen was given a 25-second penalty and the two-point gap became 53 and a straight shootout for the title became just needing to finish sixth.

After what happened in 2017 though, he was never going to leave it to chance, or let it be said he only won because of a retrospective penalty to his rival.

McLaughlin finished second in Newcastle but it was enough to win the V8 Supercars Championship.
McLaughlin finished second in Newcastle but it was enough to win the V8 Supercars Championship.
   

He flew home in second place to David Reynolds, and as the new Supercars 2018 champion.

On a weekend of a first for McLaughlin, it was also a weekend of lasts as Supercars said goodbye to the victorious Ford Falcon, Nissan, Tim Blanchard and, most notably, the great Craig Lowndes.

The seven-time Bathurst winner embarked on a lap of honour prior to his 667th and final race before a stroll down the pitlane whilst being clapped on by rivals, colleagues and friends.

Lowndes will no longer race Supercars full-time as he moves onto the next chapter of his career in the media and as a co-driver.

The race signalled an end to full-time driving for Craig Lowndes.
The race signalled an end to full-time driving for Craig Lowndes.

Unlike the anarchy of Saturday, Sunday's finale began far more straightforwardly as polesitter Reynolds kept the lead with McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen equally spaced out behind him.

However, at Newcastle chaos is only a corner away - literally - and it was turn 12 which provided it this time as Jamie Whincup and Fabian Coulthard collided in the same place they did the day before.

This time it was Coulthard whose car lost came off worse, losing its boot lid and wing as Whincup gained a little bit of revenge for what happened in Race 30.

That signalled a mass congregation in the pit lane - a scene which caused so many problems on Saturday - with McLaughlin getting out before both Reynolds and Van Gisbergen to take the lead.

McLaughlin with Shane van Gisbergen. Picture: Getty
McLaughlin with Shane van Gisbergen. Picture: Getty

There was a nice moment for Lowndes after 55 laps as he was allowed to briefly lead the race having waiting until last to pit for a second and final time before McLaughlin eventually retook the lead.

From there on out it was cruising home safely for McLaughlin to ensure victory in the series - even a 25-second penalty as SVG suffered wouldn't be enough to stop him, or for his Kiwi rival to overtake him.

Van Gisbergen suffered damage to the inner guard of both of his front wheel after a bit of track debris hit it to and make it look like his Red Bull actually did have 'wiings' as his title charge ended in disappointing circumstances.

At the front Reynolds was putting the pressure on McLaughlin and, wisely, the DJR Team Penske driver allowed him to pass and ensure he got home safely as champion.

It was a calm end to a stunning season and as Lowndes exits the sport after three decades, he can rest easy knowing it will be in the more than capable hands of two very talented young Kiwis, who can now both say they have been Supercars champion.

News Corp Australia


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