Scott McLaughlin takes win from pole in short circuit sprint at The Bend
Supercars championship leader Scott McLaughlin has picked up where he left off from last weekend’s racing at The Bend Motorsport Park, converting pole position to another race victory around the West Circuit in today’s first of three races for the round.
Dominating qualifying and leading from the front throughout the race, the DJR Team Penske driver took his 12th win of the year under intense pressure from an old rival, with it further extending his lead in the driver’s championship standings.
An aborted start the first time around saw the race shortened to 31 laps from 32 before it began, the field being sent around on another formation lap and another opportunity to get heat into the Dunlop tyres on a cold South Australian day.
Off the back of taking pole position, McLaughlin again got the holeshot off the line to lead the field into Turn 1 as Jack Le Brocq rocketed from his grid position to move the Tickford Racing #55 up to second, going around the outside of team-mate Cam Waters and Triple Eight’s Shane van Gisbergen.
Going for the undercut strategy to try and jump McLaughlin, Le Brocq was pulled in to the pits on lap six, emerging with clear track around him as the race leader responded on the next lap, making use of a quicker pit stop to come out with a bigger margin than before their tours of the pit lane.
Waters and van Gisbergen elected to go long on their opening strategies, the former taking his stop on lap 13 and coming out behind his team-mate Le Brocq while the latter waited until lap 15 to have better tyre life at the the end of the race.
Le Brocq lost a podium spot to Waters as his car coughed and hesitated to accelerate on the exit of Turn 6, allowing his team-mate to range up behind and eventually get past as further up the road the gap between the leading Kiwis closed with tyre life being the critical element in the lead battle.
Try as he might, van Gisbergen wasn’t able to get past McLaughlin, allowing the championship leader to notch up another victory for the year, grabbing the full 100 points available to further extend his title lead.
Waters was able to hold on to a comfortable third while Le Brocq dropped five seconds behind his team-mate by the end of the race, still managing to edge out the Erebus Motorsport car of Anton de Pasquale for the last spot in the top five.
Being the latest car to stop, Nick Percat was able to drag the #8 Brad Jones Racing car up to sixth from eighth on the grid, ahead of James Courtney to make it three Tickford cars in the top ten, Mark Winterbottom’s Team 18 entry and the second DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight cars of Fabian Coulthard and Jamie Whincup.
Title contender Whincup’s recovery drive from qualifying 14th means he is now 263 points behind McLaughlin in the championship standings with only 200 up for grabs over the next two races and 300 at the season-ending Bathurst 1000.