McLaughlin/Premat win Gold Coast finale from 13th
- By Stefan Bartholomaeus
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat defeated the three Triple Eight Holdens in an intense Vodafone Gold Coast 600 finale that delivered a new championship leader.
A strong opening stint from Premat lifted the Shell Ford into contention from 13th on the grid, before McLaughlin leapfrogged all three Commodores with an early second stop.
McLaughlin eventually took the flag 1.5 seconds clear of Jamie Whincup, who secured the championship lead for the first time in 2017 after Fabian Coulthard finished ninth.
Just 27 points now separate Whincup, Coulthard and McLaughlin in the standings with two events remaining, while Chaz Mostert is a further 99 in arrears.
The early final stop didn’t affect McLaughlin’s pace in the final stint, but it did result in him pushing the car back to the pitlane after a celebration burnout used the last of its fuel.
“I don’t mind pushing my car if it’s pushing it into victory lane,” beamed McLaughlin.
“This guy here [Premat] did an unbelievable job in the first stint. He set us up. This is so good after Bathurst.”
Whincup said he was pleased with the result, given the championship picture.
“[The combination of] pace and being a bit more aggressive on strategy meant they deserved the win, congrats to them,” he said.
“It’s all good. We’re obviously happy with the result.”
Whincup’s co-driver Paul Dumbrell had beaten polesitting team-mate Matt Campbell to the first corner and, although unable to shake the youngster, controlled the first stint.
He had a 1.5s margin when the minimum 34 co-driver laps were completed, leading the baulk of the field to pitlane to change over to the primaries.
The battle resumed with Whincup nearly three seconds ahead of Shane van Gisbergen, with Craig Lowndes third and McLaughlin fourth.
Premat had risen from 13th on the grid with a series of sharp overtakes, putting the Shell Ford into the top five.
The #17 Falcon closed down the gap to van Gisbergen and Lowndes in the second stint and, on lap 61, dived in early for its second stop.
Van Gisbergen and Lowndes came in two laps later and, despite the Falcon being momentarily stuck behind Dale Wood on its outlap, both rejoined behind McLaughlin.
Whincup suffered the same fate when he took his final stop two laps later again – McLaughlin cutting the Turn 1/2 chicane to hold the place.
That shortcut – and one by Whincup at the beach chicane later in the lap – were both quickly cleared by officials, leaving a straight fight to the end.
Defying theories that he’d need to slow and save fuel following the early stop, McLaughlin edged away in the final stint as Whincup started to struggle for rear tyre life.
Kerb overuse earned McLaughlin a bad sportsmanship flag with nine to go, before running wide at Turn 11 a lap later and adding further to the drama.
There was to be no late twist, however, with McLaughlin securing his first win since Queensland Raceway in August and Premat’s first since the Gold Coast 12 months ago.
Lowndes was not a factor in the second half of the race but held on for a fine fourth alongside co-driver Steven Richards, albeit 20 seconds behind the winner.
Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto produced a solid performance for fifth ahead of James Courtney/Jack Perkins and Saturday winners Chaz Mostert/Steve Owen.
The result was enough for Mostert and Owen to secure the victory in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, after nearest rivals and team-mates Cameron Waters/Richie Stanaway found early trouble.
Stanaway bent the Monster Falcon’s steering by making contact with Richards on the final lap of his stint, resulting in a trip to the garage and a 21st place finish.
The Kiwi, who had climbed from seventh on the grid to be fourth, made a late dive to the inside for the Turn 4 hairpin, with contact ensuing when Richards turned in.
Lee Holdsworth/Karl Reindler were a strong eighth for Preston Hire Racing ahead of Coulthard/D’Alberto and Nick Percat/Macauley Jones, who delivered a top 10 to Brad Jones Racing.
Those to strike trouble included Tim Slade/Andre Heimgartner, whose race came undone when the Kiwi was spun into the Turn 11 wall by Dean Fiore on lap four.
Bathurst winner Luke Youlden clobbered the wall at the exit of the beach chicane on lap 14, requiring a stint in the garage for the Penrite Holden he shared with David Reynolds.
Contact between David Russell and Richard Muscat caused early damage to the Harvey Norman Nissan in a Turn 4 melee that also claimed Alex Davison’s LDM Holden.
Turn 4 was the downfall of both LDM entries, with Taz Douglas bowing out early after a touch with James Golding that spun the GRM Commodore to the back of the field.
Golding and Garth Tander eventually finished as the best of the two GRM Commodoes in 17th, while Nissan also missed the top 10 – Rick Kelly/David Wall its best in 11th.