The 'ridiculous' turnaround which triggered unlikely victory battle

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 24/08/2021
  • By James Pavey

Two future Supercars stars went toe-to-toe for the first time on this day in 2014.

Sydney Motorsport Park, which is set to host the penultimate round of 2021 in November, saw Scott McLaughlin fend off Nick Percat in an all-time classic.

It marked McLaughlin’s fourth career win and second of 2014, and the second for Volvo following the Kiwi’s Perth win.

McLaughlin controlled the race from pole position, with Percat an unlikely challenger as the 200km marathon wound down.

The previous day couldn’t have gone worse for McLaughlin, whose countryman Shane van Gisbergen won both races in the wet.

McLaughlin’s first Saturday attempt ended early following an engine drama, before he shed a wheel in the second race.

Hopes of victory remained strong for the 21-year-old despite James Courtney, on soft tyres, bolting into an early lead.

Chaz Mostert, who would win in Sydney 12 months later, dropped down the field at Turn 2.

It got even worse for Ford Performance Racing, with Mark Winterbottom bumping stablemate David Reynolds.

Reynolds slid into the path of Scott Pye, and both Falcons made heavy contact with the concrete wall.

Reynolds went in rearwards, while Pye suffered an ugly front-on impact.

Winterbottom was slapped with a drive-through penalty, and would finish a lowly 20th to further lose touch with series leader Jamie Whincup.

The Safety Car was deployed, prompting the entire field to pit. The six soft tyre runners elected to change to hard tyres, and McLaughlin reclaimed the lead ahead of Courtney.

Behind them were Percat, Whincup, Fabian Coulthard and van Gisbergen, who was eyeing a hat-trick of wins.

Percat slid underneath Courtney for second, with the latter forced into retirement with a gearbox drama.

With clear air ahead, McLaughlin set about building a gap. By lap 20, the #33 Volvo was nearly four seconds up the road.

McLaughlin rejoined at the front after his lap 31 stop, with Percat holding onto third.

The Kiwi began to manage his tyres, and before too long, Percat began to eat into the five-second margin.

Percat launched an epic charge, but it wouldn’t be enough, McLaughlin holding onto victory - a remarkable result considering he had never previously raced at Sydney Motorsport Park.

"It's ridiculous," said McLaughlin of the two contrasting days.

"I was so thankful and relieved when I crossed the line.

"I'm proud of myself and the team for going with the right strategy. It was the result we had been waiting for.

"We made up from yesterday. I'm not surprised but overwhelmed we got this victory.”

Percat clinched his first podium as a solo driver, having won the 2011 Bathurst 1000 alongside Garth Tander.

After Super2 and Carrera Cup campaigns, Percat had finally been handed a full-time Supercars drive by Walkinshaw Racing.

He made it count, and was determined to shed his reputation as Bathurst-winning co-driver.

“[Bathurst] is definitely in the past, that was 2011," Percat said.

"When I went off and did the Porsche thing that was the start of me as a driver and a person.

"I think the team can see I'm a lot different than what I was a few years ago.

"We are living the dream, all of us. We have got a great job.”

Both drivers went on to carve out brilliant Supercars careers, McLaughlin winning three titles between 2018 and 2020, and the 2019 Bathurst 1000.

Percat won the 2016 Adelaide 500 for Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, before sealing a move to Brad Jones Racing in 2017.

Last year, Percat won two races at Sydney Motorsport Park to take his career tally to four.

The championship will head to Sydney in November for the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight.

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