Photo: Supercars

Scott McLaughlin wins the first sprint, but is smashed out before the second

DJR Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin continued his winning streak in the 2019 Supercars Championship after winning the first sprint race of the day on Saturday at Albert Park, but an incident before the start of the second race between he and Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters saw both drivers miss the start.

This allowed Chaz Mostert to become the first different winner of 2019 in the other Tickford Racing Ford Mustang.

Race 4 – 13 lap sprint

Starting from pole for the second day in a row, DJR Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin got another great start off the line to take an assertive lead into Turn 1 as those behind him scrapped to follow.

Tickford’s Chaz Mostert got a scrappy start from second and was soon passed by team-mate Cam Waters, who had started fourth, as well as Triple Eight’s Jamie Whincup in third. Whincup ran wide at Turn 1, allowing Waters to sneak through to try and stay in contact with McLaughlin.

23Red Racing pilot Will Davison had a good fight on the opening lap with Erebus Motorsport’s David Reynolds. The Mustang man prevailed and looked to make his way up the order by applying pressure to DJR Team Penske’s Fabian Coulthard.

James Goulding nearly put his Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden into the pit wall at the end of lap one when he and Kelly Racing driver Andre Heimgartner made contact, the GRM man being given a time penalty for trying to run the Kiwi towards the wall despite having an overlap.

Back up front, McLaughlin broke from the field early, putting a gap on everyone in the opening stanza while those behind him fought each other for higher places.

Mostert’s strong race pace from Friday was evident again in the Saturday sprint race, making short work of Whincup who nearly exposed himself to Coulthard behind, fortunately shutting the door before he could be relegated to fifth.

The Tickford boys soon found themselves within touching distance of each other, Waters struggling while Mostert had pace to burn. Some willing driving on lap nine saw the latter prevail in a fair fight, keeping the order as DJR Team Penske followed by Tickford on the podium.

Late in the race, some of the South Australian drivers found themselves in a scuffle when Todd Hazelwood made an opportunistic move on the inside of Nick Percat at Turn 4, forcing them both off track.

Up front, nothing could stop McLaughlin from taking a fourth straight win, the first time anyone has done so at the start of the championship since Jamie Whincup achieved the feat in 2009.
With Mostert and Waters on the podium, it was also the first time since 2009 that Ford had locked out the top three spots in two consecutive races. Whincup tried to make an effort late in the race to stop it from happening but didn’t have the ultimate pace.

Coulthard ended up keeping Davison behind him for fifth position while Reynolds was the best of the non-factory entries in seventh. Tim Slade, James Courtney and Shane van Gisbergen rounded out the top ten; an impressive result for the latter who had an engine failure in the opening race of the weekend.

Race 5 – 25 Lap Sprint

Saturday evening’s drama started before the race did, with pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin and fellow front-row qualifier Cam Waters making contact on the out lap to the grid.

The impact left both cars with significant enough damage to see them both pulled in to their respective garages at DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing, missing the start and leaving the front row vacant in the process.

Through the pre-race incident, Tim Slade and Nick Percat from Brad Jones Racing inherited the effective front row with all runners gaining two spots just for making the grid.

Off the line, Slade’s start was good enough for him to keep the lead into Turn 1, but Jamie Whincup made a blinder in the Triple Eight entry from the sixth grid slot, moving up to second by Turn 1.

The seven-time champion applied the pressure to Slade on the opening lap, finding a way past at Turn 13 which left the BJR Commodore high and dry with Percat making a move at Turn 14.

BJR cars went-side by-side but Percat was forced wide at Turn 15 by his team-mate, ending up on the grass and dropping down to seventh. The skirmish allowed Whincup to open up an air gap up front after one busy first lap.

In a scene all too familiar, Whincup ran away out front, being the only driver in the opening stint to post a time under 1:57 though a brush with the Turn 10 wall left questions of whether he was pushing too hard too early.

Mostert was the first of the leaders to come in for his compulsory pit stop on lap ten, followed by Fabian Coulthard and Percat. The trio came out well clear of anyone else while Scott Pye came in on the next lap, slotting between Coulthard and Percat.

Whincup pitted from the race lead on lap 12, being tailed by David Reynolds and James Courtney. The #88 driver held the effective race lead, coming out clear of Mostert while Courtney fought hard with Walkinshaw Andretti United team-mate Pye coming out of the pits.

On fresh tyres, Mostert set the quickest lap of the race of 1:55.959 hunting down Whincup while Slade finally came in for his stop on lap 13. Whincup and Mostert blew past Slade but on older tyres as the #14 machine came out in clear air.

Mostert took the effective lead off Whincup shortly after at Turn 3, sending a move from a long way back and catching the Triple Eight driver off guard. Shane van Gisbergen rejoined in ninth on new tyres after starting the race in 11th, looking to make a big charge late in the race.

The weekend’s first safety car came out thanks to van Gisbergen’s car losing the right rear wheel on lap 19, parting ways with the #97 machine at turn 10. He limped back to the pits but the stranded wheel left on the track left officials with no choice other than to deploy the safety car.

Racing resumed with only four laps remaining, Mostert heading Whincup and the hard-charging Slade to the green flag. The Tickford driver checked out on the opening lap, leaving the #88 and #14 behind him to battle it out.

While Slade had fresher tyres than Whincup, he couldn’t make the most of them, having to settle for third in the team’s first podium since the same round last year.

Mostert won with a convincing margin from Whincup, giving him his first solo driver win since Ipswich 2017 and making it the first all-Australian podium since the Melbourne 400 in 2018.