Scott McLaughlin finished second in a tough race around the Newcastle Street Circuit today, taking a slender two-point lead into tomorrow's Championship deciding race. Fabian Coulthard raced strongly, assisting the Championship cause until a crash forced him out of the race.
Newcastle 500 - Friday, November 23 – Qualifying and Race 30
Fabian Coulthard - No. 12 Shell V-Power Racing Ford
Qualifying – 4th (Fastest Lap: 1m10.7693s )
Race 30 – DNF (Fastest Lap: 1m11.2529s)
Scott McLaughlin - No. 17 Shell V-Power Racing Ford
Qualifying – 3rd (Fastest Lap: 1m10.7143s)
Race 30 – 2nd (Fastest Lap: 1m11.5766s)
RECAP: After a strong qualifying session where both Shell V-Power Fords qualified on the second row, Race 30 of the 2018 Championship got underway in great style. Both Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard got a good start, with Coulthard into third and McLaughlin into fourth. Triple Eight rivals Jamie Whincup were first and Shane van Gisbergen second.
Both teams swapped their drivers around on lap two, with McLaughlin passing Coulthard, while Van Gisbergen passed Whincup. Once Van Gisbergen cleared Whincup, he started to pull away, with Whincup tasked with holding up the 17 and 12 behind him
Coulthard pitted on lap seven from fourth, rejoining 19th and the first of those who'd already stopped. By lap 10, SVG was out to a 6s lead over Whincup, with McLaughlin half a second back. Whincup pitted on lap 17, rejoining in p16, three positions behind Coulthard.
McLaughlin was coached to push by engineer Ludo Lacroix, now into second place. Whincup got past David Reynolds on lap 23, and set to chasing down Coulthard on his fresher tyres. While trying to pass Coulthard at the final corner, Whincup went into the fence and dropped down the order.
McLaughlin pitted from second on lap 25, rejoining in 10th place after a very slick stop. Van Gisbergen stopped a lap later and rejoined just in front of McLaughlin. Both had long stints to run in this section of the race.
McLaughlin applied massive pressure over the next couple of laps, staying with Car 97. By lap 35, SVG had gotten to a 1s lead over McLaughlin, with Coulthard in p4. Unfortunately Coulthard crashed into the fence at turn 1, on lap 43 which brought out a safety car. Both McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen dived into Pit lane. Car 17 was able to take on its required fuel load, whilst Van Gisbergen pitted once more under the safety car.
The restart came on lap 48, McLaughlin effective leader with Lee Holdsworth yet to pit. SVG in sixth. Holdsworth then got a Pit Lane Penalty for breaching safety car restart procedure, pushing McLaughlin into the lead.
By lap 65, McLaughlin was out to a 1.5s lead over Walkinshaw Andretti's Scott Pye with Van Gisbergen in third, seven seconds further back. By lap 73, that gap was out to two-second, however McLaughlin needed to start saving fuel. Pye then pitted for a splash and dash, elevating Van Gisbergen to second with 19 laps to go.
The gap was six-seconds on lap 83, with both McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen in fuel saving mode, and with five to go the gap dropped under five-seconds, as McLaughlin saved fuel to get to the flag. With two laps remaining, McLaughlin got the low fuel warning and started maximum fuel saving. Unfortunately, McLaughlin was passed for the lead by Van Gisbergen at the final corner of the final lap to finish second, taking a two-point lead into the final race of the season tomorrow.
COULTHARD QUOTE: "I'm really disappointed with how the day panned out. I feel like we could have been on the podium today without too much drama, but I made a small error, locked the rears and ended up in the fence at turn one. Nick (Percat) was really close behind me, and that tore the rear of the car off and then to finish it, half an hour later (Tim) Blanchard came through and collected me. Its unnecessary work for the boys, but we did what we could for the team in the early part of the race, to get Scott into a good position, and that was pretty much all we could do."
MCLAUGHLIN QUOTE: "That was seriously close. We were so close to getting to the finish. But it does set-up a fantastic race and show for the fans tomorrow. A proper grand final, winner takes all. Tonight is half-time. We'll get into the oranges, have a think about it and come out tomorrow to try and win this championship."