Photo: Supercars

Scott McLaughlin returns to the top with Race 12 victory

Slow start or not, there was no stopping Scott McLaughlin in the West as he out-paced Jamie Whincup to win Race 12 of the Supercars Championship on a stunning Saturday night in Perth.

After having lost three positions by virtue of a slow start in Race 11 of the championship on Friday night, McLaughlin was beaten into turn one by Whincup at the start of the second race – however didn’t remain behind the Triple Eight Commodore for long.

After trailing Whincup closely for the opening stint, he passed the seven-time champion via an undercut gained in the first round of pitstops and was never headed from there: leading the last two-thirds of the 83-lap, 200km encounter to record his eighth win of the season and extend his championship lead.

Whincup scored his third, second-place result of the season to affirm Triple Eight’s efforts to return to the front regularly, while Cameron Waters scored his first podium since race four of the championship in Melbourne by virtue of a strong drive to third.

With Race 11 winner Fabian Coulthard finishing fourth, it ensured the championship leader built his championship lead (now 142 points) once more heading into the sixth event of the series at Winton in three weeks.

“I’m stoked! It’s my first night win – hope the fans enjoyed it,” McLaughlin said. “The Shell V Power Racing team gave us an awesome car and this is the best way to respond.

“I made another balls-up (at the start) there. The light was just faster today so I need to work on that myself. Credit to the guys next to us as well, they pushed us hard all race.

“It’s great to get a night race win.”

Whincup noted he was maxed out in his pursuit of the otherwise dominant #17 Mustang.

“We’ve come a long way from Phillip Island,” he said. “Sorry we didn’t have a bit more pace to make a race for it in the end there – very proud of the crew. Congrats to the Shell guys, but we’ll bee fighting hard and pushing hard.”

In a near carbon copy of Friday night’s race, the car on the outside of the front row beat McLaughlin into turn one; a superb launch from Whincup having him clear before they turned into the right hander.

McLaughlin held second, however, with Mostert and Waters next. Andre Heimgartner climbed to fifth in the combative opening lap that saw cars three wide further down the field.

Whincup and McLaughlin were inseparable at the front with the pair running line astern through to the first round of stops.

The first stops started on the tenth lap as teams and drivers, inspired by Friday’s race, looked for an early undercut.

Coulthard stopped on lap 13, having been held up behind Heimgartner in the opening stages. He emerged just in front of Anton De Pasquale as first of the cars to stop before lap 15.

Mostert ran third early, however began dropping spots as his car developed a misfire, ultimately forcing the Tickford driver out of the race.

McLaughlin pitted from second on lap 18, emerging in front of Coulthard and in clean air as he looked for an early undercut on leader Whincup. He stopped seven laps later on the 25th lap, surrendering the lead as the team elected to take more fuel earlier in the race.

He emerged in front of Coulthard but seven seconds behind McLaughlin – who assumed the net race lead throughout the first round of stops.

The second round of stops started on the 47th lap when Coulthard pitted from third.

The race changed complexion slightly two laps later, however, when an ambitious move by Scott Pye turned Andre Heimgartner around at turn seven, badly damaging both cars. While the Nissan was able to limp to the pits, the Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden was left stranded on the circuit. The contact was deemed a racing incident by race control.

The caution naturally caused a rush in pit lane with every driver yet to have stopped taking serviceunder yellow.

After the stops were complete, McLaughlin was left in front of Whincup and Waters, Coulthard in fourth – by virtue of his longer stop – and Rick Kelly fifth. Shane van Gisbergen was sixth with Reynolds, de Pasquale, Winterbottom and Davison the top-10 as the field restarted.

A wild restart saw the field closely bunched as McLaughlin left his go-point to the last minute; the compression of the field seeing Rick Kelly tagged by van Gisbergen with the contact sending the Kelly Racing Nissan spearing into the infield and tumbling down through the field – part of a Styrofoam sign lodged in the air intake of his Altima.

McLaughlin gently pulled away from Whincup and Waters in the closing stanza, while Coulthard was able to keep van Gisbergen at bay in the battle for fourth and fifth.

Erebus Motorsport team-mates Reynolds and de Pasquale finished sixth and seventh, respectively,while Will Davison was a late mover as he worked his way to eighth.

Lee Holdsworth recorded his fifth ninth-placed result of the year, backing up his race 11 efforts with a storming drive from 22nd on the grid, while Nick Percat completed the top-ten.

After Rick Kelly’s dramas on the restart, Simona De Silvestro inherited the position of top Nissan –another to back up her race 11 result with another twelfth on Saturday night.

Pye, following his contact with Heimgartner, failed to finish while Mostert was also out with engine issues.