In testament to the true championship team that Shell V Power, DJR and Penske are, driver Scott McLaughlin surrendered the win of today’s event in Newcastle in order to secure the win of the 2018 Series Championship without risk.
McLaughlin was dominant from the start of the event, however formally in lead from lap 21 of the 95 lap event, when he took good advantage of Team Erebus David Reynolds in the first round of scheduled pitstops.
McLaughlin appeared well ahead of his Pos#2 rival, with a gap of almost 30 seconds for most of the race, and looked set to secure the race title with what would have been a ninth victory of the season.
With five laps remaining, Team principle Penske `advised’ the young Kiwi driver to let Reynolds pass and reduce any risk to the Championship rather than fight for the day’s win. Had McLaughlin damaged his Shell V Power Falcon during a fight for pole finish, he would have also lost the Championship that he and the entire team worked and fought hard for all year long.
It was therefore more smart and good management rather than a conservative approach and one that paid off for all.
Reynolds won the event with a 4.6807s lead, but was well aware of McLaughlin’s gracious gesture and that the big picture story was about the Championship win.
The real race in fact was with fellow Kiwi driver, Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s Shane van Gisbergen with whom Reynolds held a 53-point lead. In fact, SvG had won the preliminary event the day before however a controversial post race decision for a pitstop infringement regarding fuel regulation, handed a technical Race 30 win to McLaughlin.
Had SvG won today’s event, McLaughlin needed only to finish anywhere in the top 6 in order to secure the Championship, so he did exceptionally well to end the day in second place on podium.
For the operation of DJR principle, Ford race legend Dick Johnson, this win marks the 8th Driver’s Championship, whilst it is an exciting first for his partner Team Penske since they bought into the business 4 yrs ago.
“Everyone here worked so hard,” McLaughlin said.
“We have to pay respect to Shane, we raced so hard all year, it’s been a hell of a battle. “With 30 to go I thought ‘this could be on’ and it was the longest 30 laps of my life, but holy smokes, I just can’t believe we’ve done it. Holy guacamole.”
Shane van Gisbergen finished in 4th position behind fellow Red Bull team mate Jamie Whincup in 3rd place.
Big news also of course with Craig Lowndes marking his final full time drive with a comfortable albeit conservative 11th place finish. Lowndes returns next year as a co-driver and is expected to spend most of his time as a race ambassador and spokesperson.
The commemorative note for the day, although least discussed, was that this event marks the final for the iconic Ford Falcon which of course has been decommissioned in Australia. The Ford Falcon has a history of dominance particularly in the early days and in endurance racing of Bathurst.
The Falcon will be replaced in 2019 with a version of the Ford Mustang.