March 1, 2014 — Race report by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman and V8 Supercars correspondent James Pike — photo credit Red Bull Racing Australia — ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA — It’s rare that a driver can win a race and not be the center of attention.
However, Craig Lowndes experienced exactly that on Saturday evening during Race 2 of the V8 Supercars season-opening Clipsal 500.
Lowndes fulfilled the prophetic words of his teammate Jamie Whincup after the conclusion of Race 1 and cruised to the victory, his first at Adelaide since the mid-2000s and the record-extending 95th win of his storied V8 Supercar career.
The story that garnered everyone’s attention, though, was the new face on the podium behind him.
All eyes in Adelaide were glued to the epic duel for the runner-up spot that ultimately saw Scott McLaughlin claim second over Lowndes’ teammate Jamie Whincup, who came home third to complete the podium.
With the stellar result, McLaughlin put Volvo on the podium in just their second race since returning to Australian motorsport (the Swedish manufacturer last raced in V8SC competition in 1999).
The young talent took a front row starting spot by storm, and never succumbed to the pressure of Red Bull Racing Australia, despite the fact his battle with Whincup raged for the final two-thirds of the race.
The battle climaxed on the final lap. Whincup, running third, was all over McLaughlin’s bumper going into Turn 5 and down the backstraightaway. McLaughlin threw the block on the inside of Turn 9, but could not make it stick, allowing Whincup to get to his outside and pull even with him heading to Turn 10.
After the five-time champion nearly put McLaughlin’s Volvo in the wall on the exit of Turn 10, he was able to pull away, but Whincup overshot the final corner and applied too much gas on corner exit, spinning his tires and giving McLaughlin the inside lane and the pass to take second at the flag.
Team owner Garry Rogers was ecstatic with his driver’s performance following the event.
“It’s tough, you know, but he never gave up!” an enthusiastic Rogers expressed. “Just a great race all the way around.”
McLaughlin was absolutely stoked as he climbed out of his car, fistpumping to the crowd while standing on the doorframe.
“Holy cow! Hooooooooooly cow! My boys, I can’t thank them enough!” McLaughlin exclaimed on the grid before jumping on the bonnet (hood) of the Valvoline-backed Volvo S60, something usually reserved for the race winner.
“Amazing, Richard (Hollway, engineer) and the crew. Everyone’s been making the Volvo jokes but I guess they’re gone now. I’ve never been this happy to finish second!”
Asked how Whincup got around him in Turn 9, McLaughlin shook his head and grinned like crazy.
“I was an idiot, I slowed down too much! I should’ve blocked (Whincup) a bit better. I don’t know what happened there. He got me, we went side by side racing, I just plucked it in first, gave it a bit of jandal, got by him (on the final corner) and said ‘f___ yeah!'”
Upon realizing what he said, McLaughlin covered his mouth and turned away laughing from Channel Seven’s Mark Beretta’s microphone — half in disbelief, half in embarrassment.
However, the crowd on the front straight gave a massive roar of approval for the Volvo driver’s enthusiasm and passion. McLaughlin came back on the mic afterwards to apologize by saying “sorry to all the little kids out there!”
Whincup was slightly more subdued in his response to the outcome of the battle after the race.
“The crowd’s happy with the racing, and that’s the main thing,” he said. “It was hard and fair.”
The race itself was fairly clean, but characterized with pit road mistakes and driver errors. Whincup found himself in a hole early on lap 6, when his pit crew had difficulties changing the right rear tire (the same issue that affected his teammate Lowndes in Race 1).
Jason Bright also ran into trouble on pit road when he came down for service on lap 9. Before the stop, Bright was hounding McLaughlin for the third position in the race’s opening stint. After the mistake, he never recovered and would eventually finish 21st.
Of the entire field, however, Shane van Gisbergen had the most eventful race. He spun the Wilson Security Racing Ford Falcon of Scott Pye in Turn 9 on lap 22, and drew a pass-through penalty from series officials for the contact.
In his fight to climb back up the leaderboard, van Gisbergen set a blistering pace (his fastest lap of the race was the fourth quickest overall). However, his fight would ultimately be for naught as late in the race, he attempted to make a pass on Tim Slade (again in Turn 9) with 5 laps to go. Gisbergen lost control of his rear end and made contact with Slade, who then ended up finishing off van Gisbergen’s spin. “SvG” and his V.I.P. Petfoods Holden Commodore ended the evening in 16th.
The race was slowed once after the yellow flew for debris from the James Courtney machine. Courtney’s door was taken off after a three-wide battle at Lap Nine, and he was subsequently black-flagged.
During the post-race press conference, McLaughlin reflected on his situation, albeit a little calmer this time.
“I swore on live TV. I’ll never, ever do that again!” the 21-year-old laughed. “Seriously though, (that race) was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and the battle with Jamie was sensational.”
The young driver was also quick to recognize his team for all their hard work as well.
“I’m a Volvo driver. I’m seriously so stoked and appreciate the support from all of our fans and we sold out of all our merchandise,” he added. “I’m happy to stand next to these two blokes (Lowndes and Whincup) who are legends of the sport.”
“It has just been a massive milestone for Volvo, Polestar, GRM. The amount of work those boys have done in the off season and they missed a lot of their Christmas. And in some cases I’ve done a little bit of work on the cars too with my fabrication (apprenticeship) so it’s very rewarding for myself and the whole team.”
The V8 Supercars conclude the Clipsal 500 with the 78 lap, 250 km finale race that starts at 3:15 P.M. local time on Sunday.