New back-to-back Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin says he ‘feels sorry’ for rivals who have criticised his team through a controversial 2019 season.
DJR Team Penske and McLaughlin have been far and away the dominant combination this year, winning a record 18 races.
The last of those was the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, after which the team was penalised for the Fabian Coulthard ‘go-slow’ saga and an engine breach in qualifying.
Critics have also questioned the validity of the #17’s success due to the Mustang’s alleged early-season aerodynamic advantage.
McLaughlin, though, again brushed off the negative sentiments when addressing the media ahead of the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.
“Everyone says it’s been a tough year but not really, it’s been the best year of my life,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’ve won 18 races, I’ve won Bathurst – the one that I always wanted to – and now with a second championship in a row, I’m really proud.”
Rivals including David Reynolds have criticised McLaughlin through the media during the year, while Scott Pye has today blasted the two-time champion on Instagram.
Pye took exception to recent comments from McLaughlin where he declared he’s “got annoyed with my peers and how everything’s played out”.
McLaughlin had declared the paddock as “toxic” on the Sunday night at Sandown, where he’d mathematically clinched the title.
Wrote Pye on Instagram: “You must understand that some people are going to be pissed off that a car and team that’s constantly found to be illegal continue to get meaningless penalties.
“Not saying you wouldn’t have won, clearly doing a great job, but who knows!
“It will forever be tainted and that isn’t because of the other drivers’ mentalities it’s because of your team’s doing.”
McLaughlin bit back at Pye’s Instagram story, replying in part: “30 out of 32 races, 18 of which we have won, 18 races which our car was found to be legal.
“Now when you say our car was found to be “constantly illegal” that’s false.
“We were found once of a technical infringement in 1 qualifying, out of 325 times being scrutineered up until Sandown.
“So now you understand why I believe this is how our title hasn’t been tainted.”
Speaking to the media in Newcastle prior to the Pye spat, McLaughlin had stressed: “I can’t control what other people say, what they do, what they judge us on.
“I control what I can control and that’s driving this car as fast as I can and every time I turn up to work, that’s my job, so that won’t impact my job.
“If anything, I feel probably sorry for those guys.
“They have obviously all year been, especially one guy in particular, focused on our team and my car and myself and we have just got on with the job and I feel like we have put our best forward and hence why we are ahead in the championship.
“We are race drivers, we all want to win so any time you’re winning everyone wants to drag you down and they’ll do whatever they can to do that.
“You have got to be prepared for anything. [I’m] probably surprised with what’s been said and what’s gone on, but each to their own.”
Having entered the past two Newcastle 500’s in the thick of the title battle, McLaughlin said this time around will be a nice change with the championship already secured.
“I feel like I can enjoy Newcastle for what it is a lot more,” he said.
“Certainly the last two years have been very stressful, I’ve had a lot on my mind so to now come here, it’s a lot more relaxing and I can touch the championship trophy without being worried that I’m going to curse myself.”