Why Supercars leader feels at home in Ipswich
SUPERCARS championship leader Scott McLaughlin laughs when asked to describe himself as an elite racer.
After the fantastic Australian season he's had so far, the New Zealander could probably say fearless, riding a motorsport wave or ambitious.
Instead, the confident series pacesetter tackles Queensland Raceway this weekend full of praise for his new organisation (DJR Team Penske) and the Shell V-Power backed Ford Falcon race car that he's guided to a record 12 consecutive front-row qualifying performances.
"You take every race as it comes,'' he said, holding a six-point lead over the Supercars' most successful championship winner Jamie Whincup (six titles).
"Just try to drive as fast as I can. I don't sort of try and justify my decision. I just believe in myself and hopefully it pays off.''
With last year's Supercars champion and fellow Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen looming in fourth place, McLaughlin said he didn't feel any extra pressure setting the pace.
"None at all. It's exactly where I want to be,'' McLaughlin, 24, said.
Having finished third overall in last year's championship driving for Garry Rogers Motorsport, McLaughlin was feeling positive entering the second half of this year's series.
"Things are going really good at the moment,'' McLaughlin said. "I've just got to keep it rolling.
"It's important for our championship to be consistent . . . and we've got a great team behind us that can help provide those quicks (fast times).''
Christchurch-bred, Melbourne-based McLaughlin said he enjoys the New Zealand-Australian rivalry.
"It's been around for a long time in a number of sports,'' he said, noting motorsport is the same.
"There's a lot of chat going on and we all enjoy a bit of banter.
"It's all light-hearted stuff but it definitely means a lot when you do get one on the Aussies, that's for sure.''
He's familiar with the team's test track at Queensland Raceway, having done "millions of laps around there'' since first coming to Ipswich as a 16-year-old.
His DJ Penske team did testing at Willowbank a month ago.
"It's a track I know well and I guess you could class it as your home track a little bit,'' McLaughlin said, preparing for today's first practice session in the Ipswich SuperSprint round.
McLaughlin joined a chorus of support this week from Supercars drivers excited about the $52 million expansion plans and 10 year deal for Queensland Raceway.
"It's going to be great if they can get this extended and better for the community,'' he said.
"Not only for us but it's also great for Ipswich and motorsport in general in Queensland.''
As for his team's success so far this season, McLaughlin said it was "a number of things'', including his relationship with head engineer Ludo Lacroix and his new teammates.
"It's just what you need in a competitive team environment and it's awesome,'' McLaughlin said.
Keen golfer and go-kart enthusiast McLaughlin said watching Van Gisbergen wrap up last year's championships provided added encouragement.
"Shane did a fantastic year. He was very consistent and won the races that he needed to win and that's really what I'm trying to do as well,'' he said.
"We'll try to continue what we are doing and working hard at it.
"It's going to be a long year, that's for sure.''
The top five Supercars drivers heading into this weekend's two races in Ipswich: 1. Scott McLaughlin (Shell V-Power Racing, Ford Falcon FG-X) 1608; 2. Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Holden Racing, Commodore VF) 1602; 3. Fabian Coulthard (Shell V-Power Racing, Ford Falcon FG-X) 1450; 4. Shane Van Gisbergen (Red Bull Holden Racing, Commodore VF) 1377; 5. Chaz Mostert (Supercheap Auto Racing Falcon FG-X) 1257.