Scott McLaughlin will go into the final round of the 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at Newcastle with a slender lead over Shane van Gisbergen following a dramatic weekend in New Zealand.
Entering the penultimate round on their home turf, McLaughlin was 14 points ahead of his fellow countryman after a solid weekend on the Gold Coast saw him retake the Championship lead.
Saturday’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint battle saw van Gisbergan draw first blood to take out the first race after a thrilling battle between the two saw him cross the line just half a second ahead of McLaughlin once a five second penalty had been added to his finish time for an earlier incident.
Finishing behind the pair was Gold Coast 600 winner Chaz Mostert, while David Reynolds and Jamie Whincup rounded out the top five of the first race.
While the win was somewhat soured due to a pit stop investigation following an incident with van Gisbergen’s wheels moving during his second pitstop, it was ruled legal and van Gisbergen finished Saturday’s race on top.
"That was one of the coolest races I’ve ever had," van Gisbergen said.
"We were having a great battle with James Courtney, and the pass with Scotty, he jammed it up quite nice and I just touched the back of him.
"But great respect through the last couple of corners side-by-side and cleared him up over the hill.
"Watching the crowd, it’s the coolest experience.”
The New Zealander’s Triple Eight teammate in Whincup managed to secure pole for the second race of the weekend but was unable to hold of a resurging McLaughlin who clawed his way back into top spot on Sunday.
McLaughlin was the clear fastest from the get go in Sunday’s race as he jumped ahead of his title rival in the opening laps as both he and Whincup pitted in early stages of the race.
A quick pitstop to McLaughlin on lap 37 proved a good strategy as he took the lead once again from Whincup and held onto it to win the race and regain his spot on top of the Supercars standings.
Following his victory on home soil, McLaughlin was proud to take victory over a resilient Whincup.
“Unreal,” McLaughlin said on Sunday’s race win.
“Immense pressure from Jamie, all credit to him. I haven’t won here since my first in 2013. It means so much. Any win at home in New Zealand is the best one, so this is the best.”
While the battle continues for the drivers, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team managed to secure the team’s championship for the first time since 2008.
The results at Pukehohe saw Triple Eight also end the round on 6,787 points, 681 points ahead of their closest rivals. With only 585 points available in the season finale in Newcastle, the title was confirmed.
The final round of the 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship heads to Newcastle in New South Wales for the Newcastle 500 on 23-25 November.
Published: 5 November, 2018