Not in anyone’s wildest dreams would you have thought a normally parochial Holden crowd would erupt with a standing ovation for a Kiwi who finished second in a Volvo.
In extraordinary scenes after an extraordinary final lap 20-year-old Scott McLaughlin brought the 80,000-strong crowd to its feet and punters openly stating ‘now I’m going to go buy a Volvo’.
McLaughlin upstaged reigning Champion Jamie Whincup with a grandstand finish, for second from Craig Lowndes, by losing second-place with four turns to go only to snatch it back on the final turn.
The crowd rose as one as McLaughlin crossed the line and then again when he stepped out of the car. Whincup was not happy. McLaughlin, and his Valvoline GRM Racing team were ecstatic.
“It’s huge, for me it was a big weight off my shoulders. It was something that I didn’t think would happen I thought we might have a chance but it’s pretty awesome,” McLaughlin said.
“Yeah, I’m a Volvo driver. I am seriously so stoked and so appreciative of all our fans who have bought shirts – we have sold out of merchandise it is amazing.
“That Clipsal 500 crowd is amazing but I am a Kiwi boy and I love winning in front of my fans but getting second here was incredible.
“I think it was just the fans and the reaction I got. I don’t think you have ever seen someone jump out of a car and fist pump the air in second.
“It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. The battle with Jamie at the end was sensational.”
McLaughlin was simply outstanding. He repelled every challenge from Whincup in an amazing finish for second; a battle that went to the very last lap when Whincup got through and McLaughlin showed his amazing talent by getting him back on the very last corner.
They went side by side, McLaughlin at one stage inches from the concrete wall, in the last half of the last lap. It seemed Whincup’s experience would prevail, but McLaughlin’s cheeky brashness got the better of the Champ at the end.
“At the end there I was an idiot I just didn’t check my left mirror and he was on my left side, we were touching there and it was good hard racing. I really enjoyed it. It’s bucket list stuff.”
The entire Volvo Polestar outfit in Sweden watched the race live. It was fitting reward for a team that left the Holden stable for Volvo – one of the world’s finest racing countries.
“We can’t do this without them – the sport wouldn’t be here and I’m very appreciative of all that and I am happy to be standing next to these two blokes who are legends of the sport,” said McLaughlin.
“I hope the party is going (in Sweden) … we have one more day tomorrow but this means huge to us to tick it off the list. We have had an awesome weekend, we have another qualifying session and hopefully a top ten shoot out and race tomorrow but hopefully Sweden is pumping.”
Veteran Lowndes, the most popular driver in the sport, was glowing in his praise.
“I think he [McLaughlin] has made Volvo look cool now. He has done a great job and it is great to see manufacturers come into the sport and it is great to see manufacturers succeed,” Lowndes said.
“We believed that Volvo were going to be strong this year but we thought it would be the back half of the season. He has outdone what we thought, we thought he would be in the top ten – he did a great job.”
Whincup was more circumspect about the finish.
“Today isn’t really about us, we did a good job and I would like to think I was a part of making the race exciting at the end,” the five-time V8 Supercar Champion said.
“I wouldn’t be a racer if I was happy with the end result, pushed hard for second but didn’t quite get there so we will go away and work a bit harder.
“It was good quality side by side action from turn nine, turn 10 and through turn 11, then I had the lead at 12, 13 and not sure what happened at the end, I am not sure what happened at the last corner, I may have had a hit, I’m not sure.”
In the revised two-race Saturday format Whincup won the first from Lowndes and VIP Petfood’s Shane Van Gisbergen; while Lowndes picked up the second from McLaughlin and Whincup.
Whincup racked up his eighth race win at the street circuit and while Van Gisbergen was right on the tail of Lowndes mid-race, he fell away at the end despite having changed four tyres to Lowndes’ two in the race's compulsory pit stop.
Lowndes had the jump on Whincup at the start, but an early pit stop for the #1 – and some speedy lap times – put Whincup into the lead once times were adjusted.