With Tears And A Steering Wheel Punch, Scott McLaughlin Wins The Bathurst 1000
Has there ever been a Bathurst 1000 like this one? You literally had no idea who would win the thing until the last lap.
But in the end, 26-year-old Kiwi Scott McLaughlin claimed his 18th race win of the year, the 43rd of his career, but most importantly, his first Bathurst.
As he crossed the finish line in his Ford Mustang, you could see clearly that he was in tears, even under his helmet. And pulling into pit lane, he punched his steering wheel in sheer elation.
“Oh man, I can’t believe I won the bloody Bathurst 1000. We had such a good car all week, and put so much pressure on ourselves to win this one, we made a bloody good car,” the tearaway Supercars series leader said.
“This guy was unbelievable today,” he said of French co-driver Alex Premat.
Shave van Gisbergen and Garth Tander finished second, with James Courtney and Jack Perkins in third. The combo of Lowndes/Whincup were fourth, with Reynolds/Youlden rounding out the top five.
This was a race like no other, with numerous crashes, major fuel dramas, and the whole field stacked up for one final lap after yet another safety car.
Could McLaughlin hold off the chasing pack like he had all year? Of course he could.
With van Gisbergen hot on his tail and the whole field stacked up desperate for one last all-or-nothing tilt at glory, McLaughlin drove a slick, flawless 161st lap to put a margin of 0.68 seconds on his fellow Kiwi.
Earlier, this looked like a race that was going to come down to fuel strategy. Any of a dozen drivers could have won it with 10 laps to go. It all depended on who pitted and who put their faith in the proverbial smell of an oily rag.
The 888 team played it safe, sending Jamie Whincup to the pits for a quick five second refuel on one of the numerous appearances of the safety car. He rejoined in fourth spot but never improved his placing.
But while this looked like being a strategic race with 10 laps to go, it finished up as a one lap dash of wild skill and daring. And as he has done all year, McLaughlin tore away from the field, in the Mustang which he described as a “spaceship” after winning Saturday’s shootout.
“We got it done now I’m a Bathurst winner!” an elated McLaughlin said.
And the crowd chanted his name. And then they chanted “Frenchie, Frenchie, Frenchie” in honour of Premat.
And then DJR Team Penske co-owner Dick Johnson was asked what was on his mind, 25 years after he won the race as a driver.
“25 years,” he deadpanned. And everyone knew exactly what he meant.
American motor racing legend and team owner Roger Penske said this win in Australia’s greatest race was definitely one off his bucket list.
“What a drive Scotty did,” he said. I’m just so proud of the whole team and everyone. It’s so exciting.”