Scott McLaughlin says that sharing a garage at the Bathurst 12 Hour with his Supercars arch rivals from Triple Eight is ‘weird, but cool’.
McLaughlin’s GT3 debut at this weekend’s event comes in a team that is a joint effort between car owner Alex Franes, McElrea Racing, the McLaren GT factory and Triple Eight.
While McLaughlin is sharing his Pro-Am entry with GT regulars including a pair of internationals, Shane van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes are both driving the sister, Pro Class car.
Triple Eight boss Roland Dane and Lowndes’ regular race engineer John McGregor are also working on the Pro entry.
The tie-up comes just over two months after a penultimate-lap clash between McLaughlin and Lowndes in Newcastle cost the youngster a maiden Supercars title.
“It's weird but it's quite cool,” said McLaughlin of the Triple Eight flavour to the team, which is run under the YNA Racing banner.
“I am friends with them off-track, so there's no dramas there. To be able to combine resources and get going is pretty cool.
“But for me, I feel like it's my first year in Supercars again. I go into the paddock and I don't know anyone in the catering tent.
“There's faces walking around that I don't even know. It's definitely a different vibe, but I miss my Supercars blokes, that's for sure.”
Dane and van Gisbergen watch on during practice
McLaughlin said he’s been “picking everybody's brains” in the garage about driving the McLaren, including that of van Gisbergen, who is highly experienced in the 650S.
While impressed by the GT3 machine, McLaughlin says that he’s happy not to have the same level of technology, which includes anti-lock brakes and traction control, in Supercars.
“To be honest it's very similar to the V8. In saying that, it's obviously a lot of aero and stuff, but it's the same feeling, you're just doing a faster time,” he said.
“The aero across the top is pretty impressive, the amount of grip you have through there.
“The car is pretty phenomenal, but I think we've got a great product here down under and I think that's why we don't want to go too far away from that.
“I think we should be very proud of what we've got.”
McLaughlin’s entry ended up 12th in the final practice session, having been as high as fifth in the first full-field run of the day.
The Van Gisbergen/Lowndes/Come Ledogar car was no better than ninth in any session, which McLaughlin said was largely due to traffic.
“There's a long way to go,” he said of the weekend.
“We showed reasonable speed this morning. I'd love to try and make the Shootout and see where we go from there and get a decent starting spot.
“For the race, at this stage, our ultimate goal is the Pro-Am win.
“I reckon we'll be there or thereabouts in the afternoon, but you've just got to stay out of trouble. It's going to be out of control.”