Teenage super-talent Scott McLaughlin became the youngest ever driver to claim a V8 Supercars Championship victory after winning the opening race of the ITM 400 Auckland in front of a packed crowd at Pukekohe Park Raceway today.
The 19 year old Kiwi made the most of tyre issues to champion Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom, clearing away from Jason Bright and Craig Lowndes to claim his maiden Championship victory in his rookie year.
Winterbottom and Whincup, who finished 19th and 26th respectively in the opening race, clashed at the sharp end of the second 100km race later in the afternoon.
The Ford man, Winterbottom, tried a desperate overtaking manoeuvre on the final lap, colliding with Whincup and spinning out of the race. Whincup recovered after an excursion across the grass to break his win drought, finishing ahead of Will Davison and Garth Tander as Winterbottom limped home in a far from lucky 13th place.
While there was plenty to cheer about for the New Zealand drivers in front of a packed house in the first race, it was largely frustration in the second. In-form Fabian Coulthard, fifth in race one after being demoted to 10th after qualifying, jumped the start from the ARMOUR ALL pole position to earn a 10 second penalty consequently finishing in 10th place, while McLaughlin suffered from a melee ahead of him following a safety car to drop to 24th, experiencing the highs and lows of the sport within two hours.
However the former Christchurch driver said his victory in front of a home crowd was an emotional moment.
"You come over the last couple of laps and everyone is cheering," McLaughlin said. "It was quite hard to concentrate and when I came over there for the last time it was awesome and to see fans up."
"I had goose-bumps, like literally, I had goose-bumps. It was crazy so, I can't thank my boys enough and my parents and everyone who has got me here, it is a big day."
McLaughlin said it was a bitter-sweet day with his misadventures in the second race.
"I said to the boys on the way in that it's a crap result but I had a pretty awesome first time win. You can't do much about those incidents, so I just took it on the chin. We have moved up to fourth in the Championship, so I am happy - nothing is going to spoil my day at the moment. "
"Firstly, well done Scotty, it's a huge effort, to win your first 'round win,' massive effort," Whincup said.
After his deflating effort in the first race, Whincup was pleased with his performance and believed he had no issues with the last lap collision with Winterbottom.
"In the second race, I kept the tyres inflated which was good. Following around here your car gets quite hot and the tyres go off so I really wanted to get past Fabian which I was able to do and then we pushed on."
"Clearly Mark was really quick but he had a big lunge, a silly lunge on the last lap. It's the second time now, he fixed me up in Sandown and fixed me up today but hopefully the stewards won't penalise him and leave it us to sort it out on the track."
"We all race hard up here and we should be able to go through a corner too wide, no problems at all but he was obviously all locked up and out of control and took me out. It was a disappointing end to a good race, but it's 2-0 now."
Officials are looking into the incident as well as a restart from the first safety car, when Whincup appeared to drop back well behind the then-leader Coulthard, which could constitute a technical breach.
Whincup continues to lead the championship on 601 points from Will Davison on 567, Lowndes on 489 and McLaughlin the leading Kiwi on 457.
Brad Jones Racing's Jason Bright is in the driver's seat after two races in the battle for the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy, no doubt buoyed to bring the trophy back to the late New Zealanders' race team.
There are two further qualifying sessions and two 100km races on the final day tomorrow.