The BP Ultimate Sydney Supersprint provided an entertaining return to racing this weekend, as reigning Virgin Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin prevailed in a round full of thrilling racing.
It was a profitable weekend for McLaughlin, who ended the event with race wins either side of a third place finish and ultimately extended his lead at the top of the standings, with a 49 point margin.
McLaughlin started the day’s second race on pole position and while ended up claiming the win, but it didn’t come without challenges from a number of drivers.
Eventually McLaughlin crossed the line just one and half seconds ahead of Lee Holdsworth, who produced a wonderful performance himself to climb 12 positions after being the final driver to take to the pits with just over a third of the race remaining.
In third place, Jamie Whincup ended the round with his own haul of points, which included the final spot on the podium ahead of David Reynolds and Mark Winterbottom.
“The car was so much better during that race. I think when everyone evened out due to their tyres, we were able to show our pace over the long run, which was pretty cool, ” McLaughlin said.
“We just got into the rhythm and got going and it felt really good. I am really proud of everyone at Shell V Power Racing for their determination. The main thing was getting solid qualifying and results and that’s what we did. We ticked a lot of boxes this weekend.
“There have been some tough times for everyone in the sport. We can do as much cartoon racing as we want but there is nothing like going out there for the first time and revving the engine at the start. It’s pretty awesome and I can’t wait for the fans to come back too.
“I haven’t minded the formats. It’s been pretty cool. Takes you back to the development series days when everyone used to run different tyres. There was some really good racing this weekend.”
Earlier in the day, it was surprise packet Nick Percat in his 200th start who won the weekend’s second race, leading another milestone driver in Whincup, who was competing in his 500th official Supercars race.
Some brilliant strategy from Brad Jones Racing helped Percat move up from sixth place into the lead with just 10 laps to go, after Whincup had held the lead throughout the first half of the day’s opening race.
It was Percat’s first victory since 2016, as well as BJR’s first podium since 2015, and the Holden driver was both relieved and excited post-race.
“It’s amazing. I can’t thank Brad (Jones) and the whole team enough,” Percat said.
“Obviously, Brad can’t be here today, but I have to thank him for having the faith in me. It’s taken a few more years than I would have wanted, but everyone at BJR has done a mega job and the car is hooked up.”
The four-car battle for third was the most entertaining dual throughout the day as McLaughlin eventually took out the honours, with a late pass over Cameron Waters securing the podium finish.
As a result of McLaughlin’s pass, Chaz Mostert and Reynolds also benefited and got by Waters to round out the top five.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship returns to action with teams heading to Victoria for the Truck Assist Winton event on 18-19 July.