Pit strategy pays off to nullify McLaughlin’s pace advantage
JAMIE Whincup has reclaimed his mantle as the King of Reid Park after holding off the record- breaking speed of Scott McLaughlin to take out yesterday’s second race at the Townsville 400.
Whincup had yet to win a race so far this season despite nine podiums, including Saturday’s opening event in Townsville when McLaughlin dominated from pole position.
But the Red Bull star broke the drought in style on his favourite track yesterday, claiming his ninth Reid Park victory and equalling the all- time Supercars record of Triple Eight teammate Craig Lowndes with his 105th career win.
It’s an incredible milestone in an already illustrious career for the sixtime series champion, but Whincup said he was just focused on winning a race rather than making history.
“It’s great to finally get one this year,” Whincup said.
“It’s highlighted because I haven’t had a victory for a long time, but we had a good car. It’s a small reward for the dedication that’s been going on behind the scenes.
“We’ve unfortunately had no social life while we grind it out trying to make our cars faster and we’ll still continue to do that, but now we know what we’re doing is right.
“Winning is what we all strive for. When you have done a lot of winning and you don’t and you’re not the quickest then it’s quite painful, so we’re fighting hard to get back there.”
Whincup conceded he simply hadn’t had the speed to beat the No. 17 Shell V- Power Ford after the first race and said his team would need a different plan of attack to chase McLaughlin down.
McLaughlin again had pole position for yesterday’s race – his 12th consecutive start on the front row – after posting the fastest lap in a Supercar at Reid Park to win the Top 10 Shootout.
Pit strategy played a huge part in the battle between Whincup and McLaughlin and that’s where the Red Bull team shined. After working his way up from fourth to second after just five laps, Whincup was 1.5 seconds adrift of McLaughlin and went for his first stop on lap 16 in an attempt to force his rival’s hand.
That plan worked to perfection when McLaughlin pitted a lap later and emerged second after taking on six litres more fuel than his rival.
While that should have reversed the positions in the second stops, Whincup was able to ease away as the stint progressed, pulling more than three seconds clear.
McLaughlin this time ran two laps longer than Whincup and emerged one second behind with 26 laps to go, but he never truly threatened for the lead as Whincup took the win, with defending series champion Shane Van Gisbergen rounding out the top three in his Holden Commodore VF.
“The car was good. We had a tool to fight with today which was the main thing and we pushed hard,” Whincup said.
“I feel like we maximised, the other guys probably didn’t maximise and we were right there to pounce.
“We made ourselves pretty vulnerable there in the last stint when he ( McLaughlin) had four- lap better tyres so it was always going to be tough to keep him behind, but … we were able to fight hard.”
Whincup’s victory sees him push up to second in the Drivers’ Championship – just six points behind McLaughlin.