Scott McLaughlin chalked up race victories 9 and 10 of the season at Winton Raceway in Victoria to extend his championship lead to 244 points. However, McLaughlin’s Winton double wasn’t all plain sailing as he was forced to undergo scrutiny during and after Saturday’s race for the way he rejoined the track after being tapped wide by teammate Coulthard on the opening lap. Nevertheless, it was a dominant performance and that incident aside, there’s no doubting that McLaughlin was a class above everyone else in both races. As we begin to stare down the barrel of what could be a record-breaking year for McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske, I’ve given my thoughts on some of the biggest talking points from Saturday and Sunday in Winton Weekend Wrap.
McLaughlin Reigning Supreme In 2019
I just don’t think anyone can stop Scott McLaughlin right now. Even before this season started it was clear that McLaughlin had the ability to mature into a once in a generational talent and with each passing race weekend, I think he’s getting better and better. There’s no doubt that DJR Team Penske have built a phenomenal car, but when you contrast the fortunes of McLaughlin against the Tickford cars, and even his teammate the incredible job he is doing becomes clear.
Ten race victories from the first 14 races of the season is a brilliant set of results to have heading into the halfway point of the season in Darwin, and it most likely would have been 11 wins if it wasn’t for the incident at the Australian Grand Prix. The nature of the points system in Supercars means that he hasn’t yet got a cushion of two races, and one bad mechanical failure or accident could close his 244 point advantage right back up. However, I don’t think you can argue that we’re witnessing a level of performance right now that you don’t get to see very often, and it’s going to take a huge effort from the rest of the field to beat him comprehensively on track this year.
Best Weekend Yet For Lee Holdsworth, But Mixed For Tickford
Winton marked Lee Holdsworth’s best weekend yet of 2019, and that even includes taking into account two Saturday penalties which dropped him from 8th to 16th, and then 16th to 22nd. On pure pace alone, Holdsworth was up there and able to mix it with the top ten in both races and on Sunday his 5th place finish meant he ended the race best of the Tickford cars for the first time this year. 12th in the championship standings post-Winton, there is still work to do as car #5 is still over 100 points away from the top ten, but the signs of progress are there and if this form continues then Mostert, Waters and Davison will all be looking over their shoulders.
It was another mixed set of results for Tickford who tasted champagne on Saturday courtesy of Mostert’s 2nd place finish but had a frustrating Sunday afternoon. Mostert’s off-track excursion on lap one of Sunday’s race dropped him to the back of the pack and despite showing strong pace to recover to 10th, he will be disappointed not to maximise the potential result. It was an unusual unforced error from Mostert to run wide, but he won’t be the last driver to make one this year. I’m sure he’ll be back in Darwin but it’s poor consistency which is really hurting Mostert this season. Waters and Davison had quiet weekends, and both have dropped off a little compared to where they started the season. Davison’s DNF on Sunday was unfortunate and both will be looking at Darwin to reignite their campaigns.
Triple Eight Continuing To Recover
After the hammer-blow that was Phillip Island, Triple Eight’s recovery run continued to gain pace at Winton with Whincup’s 3rd place finish on Sunday marking another solid race result. Whincup has really pushed on in the last two rounds and continues to rise back up the championship standings leaving Winton in 5th, 52 points behind Reynolds. The undercut worked well for car #88 on Sunday and allowed him to move into third after spending much of the race behind Reynolds. However, in order for Triple Eight to go two places better and stand on the top step, there’s a lot of work left to do. I’m sure they will continue to improve and close the gap as the season goes on.
Shane Van Gisbergen finished 5th on Saturday and 7th on Sunday to cap off a quiet weekend in car #97. He never looked like he had the speed to challenge for the podium and I was surprised that he was stronger in Saturday’s greasy track conditions where he usually is so strong. He raced well on Sunday to rise to 7th after a poor qualifying but will be desperate to return to the podium next time out in Darwin.
Sterling Drive For GRM Substitute Chris Pither
A late stand-in to replace the injured Richie Stanaway, Chris Pither had an excellent race on Sunday afternoon to come home 14th at the checkered flag. Struggles in qualifying were expected after getting the nod to race late on, however, the way he maturely picked his way through the pack on Sunday’s race was brilliant to see and it stands him in good stead for the Enduros later in the year. He has finished 4th and 6th at Bathurst over the last two seasons, and whilst his only full-time season in 2016 wasn’t a rip-roaring success, a drive like he put in at Winton will do him no harm if he seeks to return full time in the future and I’d love to see him get another crack at a full-time seat.
What were your thoughts on the Winton weekend? Who impressed and who didn’t? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook.
The 2019 Supercars season continues with the Darwin Triple Crown on the weekend of 15th/16th June.