Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin knows just how vital this weekend’s Supercars event in Sydney is to his flagging championship aspirations.
The New Zealander goes into the Sydney SuperSprint round 285 points behind championship leader Jamie Whincup and without a podium since the opening race of the Winton event in May.
McLaughlin made a statement at Sydney Motorsport Park on Friday by topping the time sheets in practice, but he knows he has to turn that one-lap pace into results this weekend.
“The only way we’re going to get back into contention is we have some stronger results,” said McLaughlin, who clocked a best lap of one minute and 29.7774 seconds in the second of two one-hour practice runs on Friday.
With championship rivals Shane van Gisbergen (1:29.8191) and Mark Winterbottom (1:29.8326) clocking the second and third fastest-laps of the day and championship leader Jamie Whincup (ninth) not far behind, McLaughlin knows he can’t afford to relax.
“Obviously those guys aren’t getting any slower. It’s important we stay in front of them,” he said.
“To win the championship you need to be in the top five more often than not if you’re not winning races. That’s the aim.”
Holden’s Craig Lowndes, who’ll make an unprecedented 600th career race start on Sunday, was seventh fastest.
Just ahead of him was Holden’s James Courtney, returning to the scene of an accident in 2015 that left him with broken ribs and damage to his lungs and sternum.
A week after finding out Holden would end its 26-year association with Holden Racing Team at the end of 2016, Courtney said it was refreshing to get the team’s focus back on racing.
“For sure we’re upset to see Holden leave the team but we’re pressing on, trying to keep on winning … it’s just part of business really,” he said.
Ford’s Chaz Mostert, who won two races at this event in 2015, came fourth in the second session after topping the time sheets in the day’s earlier hour-long practice run.
The session was a complete write-off however for Nissan’s Rick Kelly, who went off track with a stuck throttle inside the opening four minutes and was unable to return to the track despite some feverish work by his garage.
The Sydney SuperSprint starts on Saturday with a 120km race from 4.30pm with a 200km race to be held on Sunday.