Team Penske President Tim Cindric says Scott McLaughlin’s remarkable record-smashing qualifying effort at Bathurst was ‘another level’, and proof of just how capable the 24 year old is.
McLaughlin put in one of the great single-lap efforts at the treacherous Mount Panorama circuit during the Top 10 Shootout at this year’s Bathurst 1000, smashing the Supercars unofficial lap record with a 2m03.831s .
It was the first ever sub-2m04s lap, and immediately drew comparisons to Greg Murphy’s famous Lap of the Gods, set during the one-lap dash back in 2003.
While McLaughlin and co-driver Alex Premat were denied a result on race day by an engine problem, the Kiwi’s Bathurst form didn’t go unnoticed by the Penske operation in North America.
Penske President Cindric reckons it was ‘another level’, and a showing of single-lap strength from the driver who has already wrapped up the Supercars pole position award with three rounds to go.
“That guy… he goes to another level each time, especially in qualifying,” Cindric told Motorsport.com.
“It just shows you how good he is.
“The kid’s really focused, really knows what he wants, and is obviously really capable.
“He’s a great kid, and a great asset to our team.”
Starts a B-minus
While clearly impressed with McLaughlin’s qualifying speed, Cindric did admit that there has been some concerns over the young driver’s form off the line this season.
From his 14 pole positions so far this season, McLaughlin has only lead into the first four corner four times.
According to Cindric it’s an area McLaughlin needs to improve, something that the Penske squad is confident he can do.
“His biggest struggle has been the standing starts,” said Cindric. “That’s what his weakness is.
“He’s making it better, but at the moment I’d give him a B-minus. But, he’d tell you that too and so he’s working hard at it.
“The rest of his game, he’s an A, for sure.”
Title fight wide open
The Bathurst DNF did prove costly for McLaughlin, who went into the Great Race with an 84-point lead in the standings.
He now sits 97 points behind DJR Team Penske teammate Fabian Coulthard, who profited not only from McLaughlin’s engine problems, but a similar issue for Triple Eight driver Jamie Whincup.
With three rounds to go, and 900 points on offer, Cindric reckons the fight is wide open between the trio.
“The Gold Coast races are going to have a lot to do with how the championship plays out,” said Cindric, referencing this weekend’s final co-driver round at Surfers Paradise.
“How things stand at the moment, I think you can put Fabian’s, Scott’s and Whincup’s names in a hat and pick your title winner that way.”
Additional reporting by David Malsher