Supercars series leader Scott McLaughlin says he has put his controversial Bathurst 1000 win behind him and is now focused on securing back-to-back championship at this weekend’s Gold Coast 600.
McLaughlin admitted it had been tough at times dealing with the fallout over his maiden Great Race victory after his Ford outfit DJR Team Penske copped the biggest fine and points deduction in Supercars history for their safety car tactics.
There were fears the New Zealander may be stripped of his Bathurst crown when his team were ordered to front a stewards hearing last weekend after Ford teammate Fabian Coulthard backed up the Mount Panorama field by dramatically slowing down during a late safety car period.
Coulthard’s “go slow” approach eliminated the fuel advantage of Holden star Shane van Gisbergen who eventually finished second, just 0.68 of a second behind McLaughlin.
While McLaughlin was allowed to keep his title, DJR Team Penske copped a $250,000 fine and were deduced 300 championship points while Coulthard was relegated from sixth to last in the results.
“It’s been pretty full on (with Bathurst fallout) but I am glad to put it all behind us now,” McLaughlin said.
“It was an up and down week (after Bathurst). But we worked hard on those last 30 laps to save fuel and put ourselves in the position… to have that track position to have a good go at Shane (van Gisbergen) – it was an awesome battle.”
Asked if the Bathurst controversy had left a bitter taste, McLaughlin said: “Not at all.
“Obviously it was a controversy and people love that in sport… I knew we won Bathurst fair and square.
“I am proud that we have etched our names in Bathurst history as champions.”
McLaughlin said the controversy would not make him change his aggressive approach on the tough street circuit of the Gold Coast where he can remarkably wrap up the championship with two more rounds remaining.
McLaughlin jumped to a 622 point series lead ahead of nearest rival van Gisbergen with his Great Race success and can secure the 2019 title as early as Saturday.
He can clinch the series in Saturday’s opening 102 lap race if he finishes in the top three and van Gisbergen fails to finish – a real possibility on the concrete wall lined Gold Coast track that has no margin for error.
“It’s a big weekend for us now. We are pushing on to try and secure the championship here but if not put ourselves in a good position for later on down the track,” McLaughlin said.
“It’s exciting. But we have to make sure we don’t take our foot off the gas because that’s when I think things can happen.
“We have to make sure we execute the same that we have been all season.
“We come into this with a lot of confidence.”
Practice starts on Friday.