Whincup win helps with his title hopes
Scott McLaughlin says it will be all on at the final round of the Supercars season, despite Jamie Whincup going into it with a 30-point lead in the championship.
Whincup became the Pukekohe party pooper on Sunday, much to the disappointment of the 39,223 spectators wanting a Kiwi win.
With just one round of the championship to go, in Newcastle in three week’s time, Whincup has extended his lead, with a maximum of 300 left up for grabs.
It means if Whincup is able to finish at least second in both races at Newcastle, or ahead of McLaughlin he’ll take the title.
While Fabian Coulthard, Chaz Mostert and Shane van Gisbergen could still mathematically in the championship, realistically their title aspirations ended this weekend.
Although he has lost some ground on Whincup, McLaughlin says there’s everything still to play for.
‘‘It’s the first time in my career I’ve been able to have a go at the Supercars championship,’’ McLaughlin said.
‘‘I guess it’s a bit of a dream come true, but I need to tick another box and try to win the thing. Jamie and his team did a fantastic job today, they had a really quick car and they beat us on raw speed. We need to scratch our heads and have a look at it, but overall it was a decent weekend with two podiums.’’
As well as move a small step closer to winning his seventh Supercars title, Whincup has become the first driver to twice win the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy, named in honour of the late New Zealand driver, who died with cancer in 2011 at the age of 35.
‘‘It’s been a bit of a drought this year. We’ve been hanging in there but haven’t had many wins or many poles. The pole this morning was the first one in the dry, which was nice and we then had to put our head down and do a hard 70 laps. I was a team-mate of JR in 2005, we were good mates, we got up to no good together for a couple of years, so it’s a special moment and it’s one of the biggest accolades of the year.’’
Being more experienced and with a slight lead, Whincup will go into Newcastle as the slight favourite, but the 24-year-old McLaughlin won’t be overawed about having the biggest race weekend of his life, where so much is at stake.
It will be a weekend where he knows he’ll have to finish ahead of Whincup in at least one race
‘‘I’ve been in battles,’’ McLaughlin said.
‘‘Like last year trying to get to third in the championship, where I had to beat just one guy (Craig Lowndes).
‘‘So I sort of have an idea of what to do and at the end of the day I’ve just got to beat him.
We’ll go there, be the chaser and enjoy it.’’
McLaughlin has been the best driver in qualifying this season and the race pace of his Shell V-Power Holden has also been extremely fast, but at Pukekohe on Sunday Whincup was clearly faster.
‘‘It’s tit for tat and that’s what the championship has been like the whole year,’’ McLaughlin said.
‘‘Everyone’s on their toes and I don’t think either party has got a significant advantage, which is going to make it even better in the final round. ‘‘Certainly, it’s all on.’’ Sunday’s race at lacked the drama of the previous day, when van Gisbergen won and it was something of a procession.
Other than the cars were out of sequence because of refuelling, Whincup led for the entire race, with McLaughlin second.
Van Gisbergen was involved in bizarre incident early in the race, he came into the pit lane way quicker than Tim Slade and rammed into the back of him.
The bonnet of his car bent up so much that van Gisbergen couldn’t see his way into the garage and had to be guided in by his team over the radio.
His car needed a significant patch up job and he eventually finished 24th, while Coulthard finished fifth.
Jamie Whincup, driver of the #88 Red Bull Holden Racing Team celebrates after winning race 24 for the Auckland SuperSprint.
Scott McLaughlin showed his pace around Pukekohe Park Raceway in the qualifying session.