Phillip Island Supercars: McLaughlin runs down Whincup in Race 1

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Phillip Island Supercars: McLaughlin runs down Whincup in Race 1
Andrew van Leeuwen
By: Andrew van Leeuwen
Apr 21, 2018, 7:32 AM

Scott McLaughlin ran down reigning Supercars champion Jamie Whincup to win a tense 57-lap opener at Phillip Island.

Scott Pye, Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden
Richie Stanaway, Tickford Racing Ford
David Reynolds, Erebus Motorsport Holden
James Courtney, Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden
Mark Winterbottom, Tickford Racing Ford
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Cameron Waters, Tickford Racing Ford
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering
Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske Ford

It was Whincup that got the best of the start, he and polesitter McLaughlin running side-by-side for several corners on the first lap before the Red Bull Holden eased into the lead.

From there he was able to slowly build a small gap over McLaughlin across the first stint, getting as much as 1.2s ahead around the 10-lap mark, before McLaughlin reeled it back to within a second a few laps later.

From Lap 14 onwards McLaughlin started to close in on the leading Holden, cutting the gap down to 0.3s over the next three laps. The leading pair then pitted nose-to-tail on Lap 17, Whincup just holding off McLaughlin to retain the effective lead.

The second stint was much like the first. Whincup made early gains to stretch the gap to a little over a second, before McLaughlin pulled it back to 0.3s by Lap 25.

That gap held steady until Lap 31, when once again the pair dived into the lane at the same time. Again Whincup held on, setting up a straight fight for the final 26 laps.

This time McLaughlin didn't let Whincup get away in the early part of the stint, running within a couple of tenths of the leader as the pair scrapped for control of the race. 

On Lap 41 McLaughlin made his move, slipping up the inside of Whincup through Southern Loop to grab the lead. By the end of that same lap the gap was already 0.7s.

From there McLaughlin was able to ease his way to a 0.8s victory over Whincup, as well as a one-point championship lead.

"I was working on him for ages," said McLaughlin. "I needed to get close through Turn 1, I was good there. His thing is so fast down the straight, even in the tow he was pulling away from me! Anyway the thing is all good and we had a lot of fun.

"I think the battle between Shell V Power Racing and Red Bull its fantastic. I'me glad to be a part of it, I always have great battles with Jamie."

Whincup added: "At the end of the day Scott did a better job. No parity issues, there's nothing about carbon bonnets, they just did a better job. We'll work harder next time."

Rick Kelly finished an impressive third in his 500th Supercars race, the Nissan driver using a short-fill at his first stint to make some track position before impressively holding on to the final spot on the podium through the second round of stops. 

"It was unbelievable," said Kelly. 

"We had a tough couple of sessions yesterday, and then the car was ace this morning and it was unbelievable in the race. That last stint we had to really push hard and make sure we came out in that spot."

Shane van Gisbergen finished fourth, despite battling power steering problems throughout the race. The issue was bad enough that the team even looked at switching his steering wheel to a significantly larger diameter unit at the second stop, however van Gisbergen made a last-minute decision to fight on with the standard wheel for the final stint.

Craig Lowndes finished fifth, but had been in contention for third with a couple of laps to go. The veteran was allowed pass teammate van Gisbergen to have a crack at Kelly, before letting the struggling Kiwi back past on the last lap when he couldn't get the job done on the Nissan. 

Chaz Mostert came home sixth, having passed both Erebus entries during the final stint. 

The two Erebus cars continued to scrap over seventh right until the finish, David Reynolds ultimately holding off impressive rookie Anton De Pasquale by 0.5s.

In stark contrast to last year's Phillip Island races, there was only a single tyre failure this time around. Michael Caruso was the unlucky driver to lose a Dunlop, his right-rear letting go on Lap 27 after he'd fought his way from the back of the grid to 10th on the road. He ended up finishing 18th.

Supercars 2018 Phillip Island

Cla#DriverCarGap
1 17 new_zealand Scott McLaughlin  Ford Falcon FG X -
2 1 australia Jamie Whincup  Holden Commodore ZB 0.8960
3 15 australia Rick Kelly  Nissan Altima 2.4037
4 97 new_zealand Shane van Gisbergen  Holden Commodore ZB 9.0836
5 888 australia Craig Lowndes  Holden Commodore ZB 12.2829
6 55 australia Chaz Mostert  Ford Falcon FG X 13.5567
7 9 australia David Reynolds  Holden Commodore ZB 18.3329
8 99 australia Anton de Pasquale  Holden Commodore ZB 18.8541
9 230 australia Will Davison  Ford Falcon FG X 31.5392
10 2 australia Scott Pye  Holden Commodore ZB 32.3435
11 14 australia Tim Slade  Holden Commodore ZB 32.4920
12 33 australia Garth Tander  Holden Commodore ZB 33.6019
13 12 new_zealand Fabian Coulthard  Ford Falcon FG X 33.9457
14 5 australia Mark Winterbottom  Ford Falcon FG X 34.4535
15 7 new_zealand Andre Heimgartner  Nissan Altima 39.7996
16 6 australia Cameron Waters  Ford Falcon FG X 44.9287
17 25 australia James Courtney  Holden Commodore ZB 45.4025
18 23 australia Michael Caruso  Nissan Altima 45.8549
19 56 new_zealand Richie Stanaway  Ford Falcon FG X 53.3512
20 19 australia Jack Le Brocq  Holden Commodore ZB 54.8942
21 21 australia Tim Blanchard  Holden Commodore ZB 1'12.6001
22 18 australia Lee Holdsworth  Holden Commodore ZB 1'13.4714
23 78 switzerland Simona de Silvestro  Nissan Altima 1'24.1808
24 35 australia Todd Hazelwood  Ford Falcon FG X 1'28.8660
25 34 australia James Golding  Holden Commodore ZB 7 laps
26 8 australia Nick Percat  Holden Commodore ZB 12 laps
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