Pit strat­egy pays off to nul­lify McLaugh­lin’s pace ad­van­tage

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TRENT SLATTER trent. slatter@ news. com. au

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.

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