All the talk leading into the weekend’s V8 Supercars meet at Phillip Island was of Scott McLaughlin’s future.
On Friday, the Volvo man showed there’s plenty worth talking about in his present.
McLaughlin scorched the Phillip Island circuit to set a new all-time lap record around the coastal track.
He shaved two-tenths off Mark Winterbottom’s previous benchmark, set three years ago and put an ocean between himself and the field with a 1:30.3918 lap just as the curtain fell.
The time makes McLaughlin, 22, the man to beat on the Island this weekend.
“Happy days, quite a bit under the record,” he said.
“I’m stoked but it’s early days yet … I wish it was qualifying.”
McLaughlin, out of contract at season’s end, has been linked with a DJR Team Penske and Holden Racing Team drive next year.
He has said he will wait to hear where Volvo continues its involvement in the sport before making a decision.
On a picture-perfect day at the beautiful Victorian track, the New Zealanders were fastest.
Fabian Coulthard and Shane van Gisbergen were next home with times just above one minute 31 seconds.
Coulthard said the gap between the field can be made up.
“This is one of these tracks where if the conditions are right and you get it right, the margins can be massive because it’s got a big flow on effect,” he said.
“We know we’ve got a bit of work to do.”
McLaughlin’s teammate James Moffat joined him to sit one-two in the standings mid-way through the final practice session only to take two trips into the gravel around the sweeping turn two.
He would finish 10th.
Rick Kelly showed pace in his Nissan Altima to finish fourth while reigning champion Mark Winterbottom ended up seventh.
Jamie Whincup couldn’t find race pace and finished 19th.
Garth Tander, who charted 15th, said conditions were “low-grip which is old school Phillip Island”.