Scott McLaughlin has dominated Darwin to all but crush Holden’s dream of leaving the sport they made with a final win over Ford.
On a day of domination that went a long way to killing a fairytale finish for the famous brand, the DJR Team Penske star flew in his Ford to win both races and deliver a crushing blow to the Commodore.
Showing no sympathy for the soon to be extinct Aussie icon, McLaughlin extended his championship lead by claiming a Top End triple.
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“I love this place,” McLaughlin said. “And I love it when my car is this good. This is probably the best car I have driven. It is so solid and I am so proud of everyone that works so hard behind the scenes.”
After roaring his way to a Saturday win, McLaughlin clean swept the Hidden Valley round by beating Shane van Gisbgeren and then Nick Percat.
With COVID threatening to end the season after the Bathurst 1000, Holden’s best hope Jamie Whincup is now 177 points behind McLaughlin.
Time is running out.
DJR Team Penske and Red Bull Holden Racing traded blows in qualifying with McLaughlin and van Gisbergen landing a pole a piece.
Striking first, McLaughlin continued his remarkable year of one-lap speed to claim top spot for the first Sunday race.
Van Gisbergen returned serve by putting his Holden on pole for Race Two.
“It’s awesome,” said van Gisbergen of his pole.
“I really just have to thank the guys, they put in a big effort changing the motor last night and then Shippy (engineer Grant McPherson) going through the set-up.
“We just had to go back to basics and the car was awesome right from when I left pitlane.”
McLaughlin blitzed the field by almost seconds in race one after seeing off van Gisbgergen at the start.
A day after surpassing Peter Brock’s championship record, McLaughlin clocked up race win No. 50 by dominating the field.
“I am very proud for the team,” McLaughlin said. “The car is sensational and I got a good start. It was hard racing with Shane and I really enjoyed it. The car was really hooked up and we took off.
“I knew Scott Pye was going to come with fresh tyres so I tried to pull a gap and got away. The big gap we had at the end was a testament to the guys and all the work they have done.”
Van Gisbergen had no answers for McLaughlin’s showing of speed.
“My car was great but Scotty was a little bit faster,” van Gisbergen said.
“They are going really well, so well done. We just didn’t have enough to get close to him.”
Scott Pye punched above his weight to score a well earned podium.
THE PUNCHING BAG
A week after being taken out by Shane van Gisbergen, Nick Percat’s bad luck continued when he was turned by Chaz Mostert in another race ruining collision.
In a bruising Darwin double header, Percat copped back-to-back bangs with Mostert wrecking his run with a mistimed undercut.
Mostert was unrepentant for causing the collision.
“Rubbing is racing,” Mostert said. “And there was plenty of rubbing leading up to it. It didn’t end up how we wanted it to but it is what it is.”
Gary Jacobson also copped a penalty for taking out Jones.
McLaughlin crushed the field to win by almost 15 seconds in his most dominant drive of the year.
Gifted the lead when van Gisbergen missed the start, no one got near the reigning champion as he firmed for a V8 three-peat.
Percat finally had some luck when he rebounded to claim second while Scott Pye finished third to claim a podium double.
DAY ONE: McLAUGHLIN DELIVERS WHEN IT MATTERS
Scott McLaughlin has edged out Jamie Whincup to claim another Hidden Valley win as the battle between the championship heavyweights continued in Darwin.
In another Ford v Holden fight, McLaughlin again went toe-to-toe with his Red Bull rival after Whincup struck to end his qualifying streak.
Hitting back by roaring off the line to claim the race lead, the DJR Team Penske driver led from start to finish in a clean run to the line to extend his championship lead.
Whincup’s strong season continued with the V8 immortal backing up last weekend’s win with a strong second.
Cameron Waters fended off a challenge from stable mate James Courtney to finish third.
Scott McLaughlin’s incredible run of qualifying wins came to an end when he was trumped by Jamie Whincup in the shootout.
In another indication of the gains made by the Commodore, Whincup backed up last week’s race win by beating McLaughlin in a one-lap blast.
McLaughlin has been the undisputed one-lap king but fell short off Whincup by 0.0633s to suffer a rare qualifying defeat
“We were genuinely in P13 earlier but we tuned the car up for the shootout,” Whincup said.
“She was much better and I’m very happy to get pole. The car was very good and I got the most out of it, and maybe we got gifted a tenth or so with the cloud cover.
“But I’ve been on the other end of that plenty of times, so you take it when it comes.”
Whincup’s pole position celebration was short lived with McLaughlin blasting his way out of the blocks to claim the race lead.
Making Whincup pay for a slight bobble off the line, the Ford flyer safely made his way around the first corner before establishing a small but comfortable margin.
With Jack Le Broq suffering the first fail when he suffered race ending contact, McLaughlin reclaimed his margin over Whincup following his one and only stop.
In the fight for a podium, Anton de Pasquale opted to run long after the leaders made early stops.
On fresh rubber for a late race charge, the Erebus driver picked up places but was unable to force his way onto the podium.
Almost lost to the sport after quitting his deal with Team Sydney, James Courtney is making the most of his second chance.
Stitching up a post-COVID deal to re-enter the series in a Tickford built Ford, the former champion almost made it back-to-back podiums when he followed Waters home to finish fourth.
Courtney has gone a long way to prove he is no spent force following a tough final year with his other former team Walkinshaw Racing.