Bathurst Winner Scott McLaughlin: 'No One Is Taking That Trophy Away From Us'
Relieved, relaxed and defiant. Those are three words you could use to describe Bathurst 1000 champ Scott McLaughlin right now.
Relieved that it's all over, and that after a season where he'd already won 17 of the 24 Supercars races, he just won the one that matters most.
Relaxed, because that's the sort of guy he is -- intense when it's on, chilled when it's over.
And defiant, because McLaughlin isn't even slightly bothered by talk his team could be stripped of its Bathurst title over the Fabian Coulthard blocking incident.
10 daily caught up with McLaughlin and his co-driver Alex Premat earlier today, and started by asking a very, very, VERY important question.
Ant: So come on, fellas, just how big was the Bathurst after-party?
Scott: We partied hard. I always party, but we partied extra hard that night, it was awesome. How did you go, Frenchie?
Alex: Yeah, I mean, I went pretty good. Though I went to bed a little bit earlier than Scotty because I’m older.
Ant: But you saw the dawn, Scotty?
Scott: Oh yeah. I probably only got an hour’s sleep before the Monday festivities and media commitments.
Alex: I mean, I’m here for the next four weeks so I can party for the next four weeks.
Scott: Starting next Saturday, when we’re going to watch the whole race back as a team.
Ant: Wow, you're going to watch the entire race?
Scott: Yep. It will be like Bathurst day again for us, I’ve always wanted to do it. If we ever won Bathurst, I wanted to put a thousand bucks on the bar a week later and do Bathurst day again.
Ant: And now you can. And the name of the bar is… I promise I won’t tell the whole of Australia.
Scott: Private function, sorry.
Ant: Oh well, I tried. So Scotty, how are you feeling a couple of days after your big triumph?
Scott: It’s surreal. I was talking to my family this morning and saying that I’ve won Bathurst and got a championship, so I’ve ticked a lot of boxes that I wanted to check in Supercars.
Ant: "When did it sink in?" is my least favourite sporting question. In fact I hate it so much that I once rang a psychologist for a story on how long it takes the human brain to process something momentous. She said it varies, but on average, around three weeks.
Scott: That sounds about right. I’m sure it'll take about that time. But it won’t be until next year when we turn up at Bathurst and you get the plaque in the street and that sort of stuff that we'll really feel like Bathurst champions.
Alex: Yeah, next year we’ll come here with the trophy, and that will be crazy.
Ant: You’re talking like you’re going to be invited next year!
Alex: Hahahaha, I hope so.
Scott: Of course he will.
Ant: Alex, did you like it when the crowd chanted “Frenchy, Frenchy, Frenchy”?
Alex: Yeah I like it, it’s pretty different. Some of the guys from the V8 Supercars say "hey Frenchy, how are you?" instead of Alex.
Scott: I reckon I started it when we were teammates in 2013 in Supercars. It’s funny, thousands of Australians were chanting "Frenchy" at Australia's greatest race. An Australian/American team won Australia’s greatest race with a Frenchman and a Kiwi.
Alex: It’s a very international race.
Scott: It’s like the United Nations.
Ant: How’s your French, Scotty?
Alex: He can say “oui, oui”, that’s it.
Scott: And a couple of bad words.
Ant: Your Aussie’s pretty good, Alex.
Alex: Oh, I don’t know about that mate!
Ant: Ha! What else have you got?
Alex: I speak Kiwi too. “Sweet as! Choice!”
Ant: Scotty, I noticed that when you crossed the line, you had tears in your eyes straight away.
Scott: Yeah I was just overcome with emotion. There was so much stress built up and then bang, there’s just relief. I’m not usually such an emotional person, but my eyes welled up a little bit, and I sort of thought I better pull my head together here.
Ant: And then you punched your steering wheel really hard in pit lane, which is normally what I do when I’m stuck in Sydney traffic. But I think it was satisfaction for you, right?
Scott: Yeah I pulled up to the number one spot and I’m like "what the hell? I can’t believe we did it". And then I saw Frenchy when I got out of the car and it was incredible.
Alex: Yeah, it was good. Both of us were jumping on the roof of the car, and all the fans were cheering for us. I just really appreciate it.
Ant: Way back in about 2002, I asked young Aussie golfer Adam Scott if he’d rather be world number one or be the first Aussie to win the Masters. It was a fantastically stupid question because obviously it was the Masters. Is Bathurst like that for you?
Scott: Oh, look. The championship was special. Everything we’ve done to this point was special. But no matter what, we’re always going to have this Bathurst win, so it’s amazing.
Ant: But if the whispers are true, it appears the stewards may have the power to take it away. Is any part of you worried about that?
Scott: No, not at all. As far as I’m concerned, when I got to the press conference was the first I knew about it. I didn’t know what had happened. We won that race fair and square in my eyes. We had the fastest car all day, we had a great strategy, we rolled out second in the final stint, Jamie [Whincup] decided he couldn’t make it on fuel, we thought we could, and eventually we did. So as far as I’m concerned, no one is taking that trophy away from us.
Ant: Dick Johnson said that what happened did not change the outcome of the race one iota.
Scott: Yeah, that’s right.
Ant: So what exactly did happen?
Scott: I still don’t know to this time, But I think [the controversy] is a complete beat-up and I think the whole focus should be on how we won Australia’s biggest race.
Ant: Which you did, and you won it emphatically on the last lap. Talk us through that lap.
Scott: Oh it was a lot of pressure, one lap. You do a lot of qualifying laps at that point, but that was like the shootout all over again, and the tyres had cooled down, and it was all about commitment. I had one of the biggest committers in Shane van Gisbergen behind me, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. But I won it fair and square, won by 0.6 of a second and I’ll never forget the moment crossing the line. It was what we race for.
Ant: You were in beast mode on that final lap.
Scott: I actually couldn’t ask for a better way to win the race. I wanted to show that I could adapt under pressure. I think two years ago I would have thrown that race away. I think I would have cracked under the pressure, I think I would have over-thought it. But this team has put in a lot of hard work over the last 18 months to make us all better. And there wasn’t one point under that safety car when I thought I was going to lose this race. I was determined to win it and I did.
Ant: Alex, how hard was it to watch that last lap?
Alex: That was honestly pretty hard, but I knew he was not going to do any mistake. And when he went into The Chase, we knew it was done, so we went to the fence and grabbed the fence and pointed our fingers.
Scott: Number one.
Alex: Yeah, number one.
Ant: And I hope the stewards keep it that way. What next, gentlemen?
Scott: Home time now. I’ve got to pick up the dog and go hang out with him.
Ant: What’s the dog’s name?
Scott: Chase. He's a cavoodle and I told him I was going to win Bathurst. I can’t wait to see him. He’s going to be so pumped.