McLaughlin Scores Darwin Hat-Trick
Scott McLaughlin made it three wins from three starts at the CoreStaff Darwin SuperSprint, proving unstoppable during Supercars’ second weekend in the Top End.
The third 38-lap contest was another straightforward affair for the two-time defending champion, taking the lead from the outside of the front-row and never looking threatened.
Leading a fast-starting Nick Percat and polesitter Shane van Gisbergen in the opening laps, McLaughlin pitted immediately after Percat’s lap seven stop to protect his position.
McLaughlin then cruised away to a 13.8-second victory over Percat, while Scott Pye scored his second podium in as many races for Team 18.
Extending his championship lead, McLaughlin also picked up the one-off Territory 2.0 trophy, awarded to the highest points-scorer of the weekend.
“I love the track and I love it when my car is like that,” said McLaughlin.
“That’s hands-down probably the best car I have ever driven, just all weekend it was so solid.
“We had a good start and were able to use our tyres and do what we wanted to do.”
Mark Winterbottom started third and finished fourth, but it was far from an easy ride for the second Team 18 Commodore.
Dropping a place off the start, Winterbottom ran the longest first stint of any of the front-runners, pitting on lap 26 and rejoining a net seventh.
The 2015 champion quickly overtook Jamie Whincup and Chaz Mostert before going to work on van Gisbergen, eventually clearing the second Red Bull Commodore four laps from home.
Van Gisbergen and Chaz Mostert had pitted 10 laps later than the top three, but couldn’t make ground in the closing stages and came home fifth and sixth.
Seventh for Whincup came despite a Turn 1 scrape with Cameron Waters on the Red Bull Holden’s outlap that broke the steering on the Monster Mustang, putting it out of the race.
Waters attempted an inside pass on Whincup, but bounced off the inside kerb, resulting in the front-wheel of the Mustang bumping into the Commodore.
Andre Heimgartner and Anton De Pasquale were eighth and ninth having been among those to run long first stints and finish on fresher tyres, while David Reynolds completed the 10.
Fabian Coulthard made progress from 16th on the grid to take the flag 10th, but dropped a spot thanks to a five-second time penalty for a mid-race bump-and-run on Bryce Fullwood.
McLaughlin now leads the standings by 177 points over Whincup, with van Gisbergen 345 adrift of the lead in third.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship continues next weekend with the first of two consecutive events in Townsville.