Freshly minted three-time champion Scott McLaughlin is looking forward to an all-out bid for glory at Bathurst, in what is thought likely to be his Supercars swansong.
McLaughlin has an unassailable points lead heading into the championship finale at Mount Panorama on October 18 following the weekend’s penultimate round at The Bend.
That leaves the Shell V-Power Racing star to head to Bathurst without having to worry about a title bid for the first time since he joined the team in 2017.
Bathurst though may have even more significance than usual for McLaughlin, who is being widely tipped to move to IndyCar with Team Penske next year.
The 27-year-old Kiwi will make his debut in the American open-wheel series at its finale in St. Petersburg, Florida, the week after Bathurst.
He had been set to run a handful of IndyCar events between Supercars commitments in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed that schedule.
As it stands, Penske is yet to publicly confirm its plans for McLaughlin next year or indeed the future of DJR Team Penske, amid a review of its global racing efforts.
Asked of his 2021 plans after securing his third Supercars title, McLaughlin said: “I’m not sure yet. At the end of the day for me, all the focus is on the end of the year.
“I’ve got a contract for next year with DJR Team Penske, but you’ve got to take your opportunities when they come and we’ll just wait and see.
“But right now I’m fully focused on Bathurst and can’t wait to get there. I’m going to hang it out at the Mountain… just have a crack.
“This race is going to be out of control.”
As for whether his performance at St. Pete will have any bearing on his future, McLaughlin added: “For now it’s a reward for the year. I’m looking at it as exciting.
“I’ll do Bathurst, the greatest race here and then go across to America, which will be cool.”
McLaughlin impressed the IndyCar fraternity when he took part in a full-field test with Penske at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas in February.
It was one of three tests McLaughlin ran prior to the start of the Supercars season, having also sampled the high-horsepower cars at Sebring and the Texas speedway.
Regardless, switching from Supercars to an open-wheel championship still looms as a major challenge for a driver who has not raced single-seaters since a brief run in Formula Ford 10 years ago.
“I’m realistic about it,” said McLaughlin of expectations for his debut race. “I’ve seen the schedule and it looks like there’ll only be one practice and then qualifying.
“Obviously I’ll have some simulator days beforehand, but I’m realistic about it. It’s a world-class series with world-class drivers. It’s going to be hard.
“But I’m very lucky that I’m going into a team that’s probably the benchmark team in the sport, barring Ganassi.
“I’m jumping in with the top drivers [at Team Penske] as well, so I’ve got all their setups, all their data and help on that. I’m grateful for that and looking forward to the opportunity.”
McLaughlin has long spoken of his desire to race full-time in America once he'd won a Supercars title and a Bathurst 1000, the latter of which he achieved for the first time last year.
He will be teamed for this year's race with Tim Slade, who was drafted in to replace 2019 winner Alex Premat in the #17 Mustang.