The king of the 11th hour strikes again
In an epic finish for the final race at Phillip Island, Scott McLaughlin celebrated like a madman as he snatched the race win from Garth Tander on the final straight. The two were nose-to-tail for the majority of the race with Tander refusing to give an inch. It wasn’t until Tander’s Holden Commodore coughed as he ran out of fuel did McLaughlin capitalize at the last possible moment.
Despite the incident, Tander still managed to roll his thirsty Commodore past the finish line and into second place.
Forcing the issue
As the race got underway, both Whincup and McLaughlin got off to amazing starts but the young Volvo star pressed the issue. In a daring move going into Doohan Corner, McLaughlin stayed side-by-side with the six-time champion and continued to do so into the Southern Loop as Garth Tander put a hand into the battle as well.
Heading into Stoner Corner, both McLaughlin and Tander cleared Whincup as the champ was shuffled back to third just in front of Mark Winterbottom
The strategy game
The strategy game came into play early on as several drivers entered pit lane on Lap 1. By Lap 13, the entire field had completed a pit stop as Tander popped out in front of McLaughlin to lead the race.
The first safety car was called on Lap 15 as the #17 car of David Wall went into the tires on Turn 12 due to a suspected power steering failure. Using the opportunity to take fuel and tires, the entire field shuffled down pit-road where the action began to unfold.
Double-stacking proved to be costly for both James Courtney and Craig Lowndes which pushed them both out of the top-ten when they finally exited the pits. Courtney ultimately finished in 13th with Lowndes finishing in tenth.
Mixed emotions for FPR
‘Frosty’ most likely had a grin on his face as he was able to get the jump on Whincup in the pits. As the field shuffled out, Winterbottom had moved back to his original starting position of third with Whincup continuing his backwards march to fourth.
As the battle up front between Tander and McLaughlin was waging, ‘Frosty’ and Whincup were in a war of their own. Driving the wheels off of his Ford Falcon, Winterbottom managed to beat his rival to the checkered flag and secure the final step on the podium.
Initially off to a great start, Ford Performance Racing (FPR) driver, Chaz Mostert, had to make an unscheduled pit-stop to top-up fuel after a fueling issue during the safety car stop. Mostert, who is in the hunt for a spot in the top-five in the championship, suffered heavily from the mishap as the current fifth place holder, Fabian Coulthard, breezed by.
In the end, Mostert fought back and finished in 17th just behind Coulthard. His goal of a top-five championship finish will come down to his performance in Sydney next month.
On the charge
After the initial surge from Tander as he slipped past Whincup on Lap 1, the Holden Racing Team (HRT) driver and McLaughlin put the power down. Once past McLaughlin after the initial pit-stop, Tander enjoyed the clean air and began to put some distance between himself and the blue Volvo in his rear-view mirror.
By Lap 33, however, the gap began to disappear as McLaughlin closed the distance on Tander. This was expected, however, with HRT managing director, Adrian Burgess, saying, “Young Scotty's having a push which we knew he would do”.
With 10 laps remaining, McLaughlin was on the back bumper of Tander but the HRT driver wasn’t budging. Tander, who is known for his excellent defensive driving, was just holding off the charging Kiwi as the laps began to dwindle away.
With three laps to go, however, McLaughlin had a moment and out-braked himself at Siberia. The bold move was costly as he lost a bit of time with his pursuit of Tander.
It was on the final straight of the final lap, however, that Tander coughed as his HRT Commodore ran out of fuel. McLaughlin made the pass just before the checkered flag to take the win for race 35 in glorious fashion.
Winning two of the three races this weekend, Scott McLaughlin made a strong statement at Phillip Island which one can fully expect to transfer over to next season. The young Kiwi is the real-deal with a bright future ahead of him in V8 Supercars.
Others of note
Shane van Gisbergen had a lonely race in fifth as he was seven seconds behind Whincup but four seconds in front on Will Davison. Still SVG pulled together a strong fifth place finish with Davison, Jason Bright, Nick Percat, Michael Caruso and Lowndes completing the top-ten.