Scott McLaughlin has taken both a decisive race win and now the lead in the Australia Supercars Championship after the latest race (nine) at the WD-40 Phillip Island 500 on Saturday. Second home was Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Holden Racing) with Castrol Racin’s Rick Kelly in third.
However, Whincup received a pots-race penalty, having 38 seconds added to his race time dropping him from second to 14th. This was imposed for Whincup turning his pitlane speed limiter off prior to reaching the end of the pitlane following his first pitstop (Rule C15.4.2 states ‘the Limiter must be activated at all times while a Car is moving in Pit Lane).
Whincup’s Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton explained that this stemmed from Whincup reacting to the wrong cone at the pit exit. The penalty now drops Whincup from one point behind McLaughlin to 76 championship points heading into Sundays race.
In qualifying for Race 9, both Shell V-Power Racing Ford drivers (McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard) took advantage of the track conditions early in the session, when a layer of rubber was still on the circuit following the Carrera Cup session. They both set their fastest laps on their second runs to take the top two positions, exiting their cars with eight minutes remaining in the session. No runners were able to improve later in the session, so Scott took his second pole of 2018, with Fabian right alongside.
Unfortunately a technical breach on Car 12 due to an error when changing the rear wing angle meant that Coulthard was excluded from the session, and had to start the race from the rear of the grid.
It would prove to be a strong race for the Shell V-Power Racing Team. McLaughlin started from pole position, and settled into second position behind Whincup after a battle into turn one off the start. Taking their first stops at the same time, Whincup maintained the smallest margin on exit, where they then settled in for a 20-lap stint until the final pit stop.
McLaughlin had pace over Whincup, and managed the gap between them. He again exited behind Whincup after the final stop, then executing a pass for the lead on lap 41 to then drive away and maintain a lead of around 1sec for the remainder of the race.
“I worked on Jamie for a few laps before making that pass, I thought about it for a while through that first stint and I knew I would have to be pretty decisive to get it done,” commented McLaughlin. He went just a little wide, and I threw it up the inside and made it stick. He was very strong down the straights, so I knew I wouldn’t get him there. It’s so awesome to be back on the top step at Phillip Island, I love this place and am looking forward to tomorrow.”
“We just haven’t had the pace all weekend, there’s not other way to put it.” commented Whincup. “We’re just not skinning the cat right. We were lacking pace in qualifying and lacking it in the race. We’re pushing as hard as we can, there’s a lot of elements to the car that are fantastic which are keeping us alive, we just have to do our job better to make the car faster.”
Fourth home was Whincup’s team mate Shane van Gisbergen. “The start of the race was pretty exciting, I got a decent one; we were three wide into turn one and got held third, which was awesome, and then into turn two, the power steering had already failed. It was a long way from there, we were just battling the whole way but it is what it is.”
Starting at the rear of the field, Coulthard got five places over the first lap, and then proceeded to use superior pace to pass plenty of cars. He was up ten places before his first stop, and then good stops and that continuing pace meant that he could drive through to 13th, a sensational result after starting last. McLaughlin now leads the Championship, one point in front of Whincup. Coulthard is 11th. The team sits third, 198 points off the lead and only nine points from second.
“I would have liked to have started on the front row, as we had incredible car pace but it wasn’t to be,” commented Coulthard. “We got past a few cars on the opening lap and had good speed through the majority of the race. With the qualifying breach we probably let a podium slip there, but the positive is that we have great pace, know that we can get the job done and have another chance to do it all again tomorrow.”
Race 9 results
Pos Team/Sponsor Driver
1 Shell V-Power Racing Team Scott McLaughlin
2 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Jamie Whincup
3 Castrol Racing Rick Kelly
4 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Shane van Gisbergen
5 Autobarn Lowndes Racing Craig Lowndes
6 Supercheap Auto Racing Chaz Mostert
7 Erebus Penrite Racing David Reynolds
8 Erebus Thermosphere Racing Anton De Pasquale
9 Milwaukee Racing Will Davison
10 Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing Scott Pye
11 Freightliner Racing Tim Slade
12 Wilson Security Racing GRM Garth Tander
13 Shell V-Power Racing Team Fabian Coulthard
14 The Bottle-O Racing Team Mark Winterbottom
15 Plus Fitness Racing Andre Heimgartner
16 Monster Energy Racing Cameron Waters
17 Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing James Courtney
18 Drive Racing Michael Caruso
19 MEGA Racing Richie Stanaway
20 Tekno Autosports Jack Le Brocq
21 Team CoolDrive Tim Blanchard
22 Preston Hire Racing Lee Holdsworth
23 Team Harvey Norman Simona de Silvestro
24 Bigmate Racing Todd Hazelwood
25 Wilson Security Racing GRM James Golding
26 Coregas Racing Nick Percat