Scott McLaughlin sealed the inaugural overall V8 SuperTourer title in style at the Mike Pero Real Estate 350 at the Powerbuilt Tools Raceway
Scott McLaughlin sealed the inaugural overall V8 SuperTourer title in style at the Mike Pero Real Estate 350 at the Powerbuilt Tools Raceway, Ruapuna with a Race 1 and overall round win - but admitted he had made the biggest mistake of his ultra-successful season in the final race when he took out Greg Murphy.
"I've had a great season but I made a mistake there and I'll definitely go and see Murph and apologise," said the youngster, who has been the driving revelation for New Zealand in V8s in Australia and New Zealand this season – and the deserving champion in SuperTourers.
Murphy, out of grip having fought his way to the front, went into the final corner with the young pretender to his throne hard on his heels. A small slide slowed Greg and McLaughlin hit him hard, spinning him down the order and incurring a 50 second penalty for himself and Jono Webb - a penalty which handed the enduro series title to Murphy and co-driver Jack Perkins.
Sprint series champ John McIntyre, second in the overall points race going into the round, had to watch from the side lines following a big practice shunt which left him with a dislocated shoulder and fractured ribs.
Starting the opening 53-lap race from pole position McLaughlin survived a dramatic start to emerge from the first corner melee to lead narrowly in the Auto Trade Direct Holden V8ST.
McLaughlin held his nerve during the opening stint to hold off a rapid Ant Pedersen, who was sharing the International Motorsport Falcon with Alex Davison. The two traded fastest laps throughout the first stint, but McLaughlin maintained a small but consistent advantage.
He handed the car over to partner Jono Webb on lap 25 with the Aussie V8 Supercar driver maintaining the lead to the flag. Pedersen handed over to Davison who chased Webb hard, but after Daniel Gaunt brought out a safety car following a gearbox failure, Davison was unceremoniously punted off the track by Paul Morris, knocking the Ford down the order to eighth.
Drive of the race came in the form of Andre Heimgartner's first stint. Starting at the back, the youngster avoided the turn one carnage and emerged in the top ten. He moved swiftly through the field to fourth before hunting down Andy Booth in the Woodstock Holden for third. Paul Morris maintained the pace, but it was unfortunate that his late race contact with Davison left Heimgartner with little to show for a great drive.
Second were Andy Booth and Tony D'Alberto in the Woodstock Holden - delighted with the result after a challenging practice day when they lost an engine. D'Alberto was ecstatic with the turnaround.
"Yesterday was bad for us and obviously Pukekohe was bad for us but to get a podium I'm absolutely stoked and to use an Aussie expression, its grouse!"
Greg Murphy's slim title chances evaporated at the first corner of the race too. He was hit by third starter Steve Owen, who was given a drive through for the contact.
"I got hit from behind," said Murph. "It was definitely Steve Owen but I don't know why it happened. I got a very good start and got between Scott and Ant but Ant just kept coming over on me. I had my nose in between the two of them and If I'd stayed where I was I would have turned Ant in front of Scott so trying to avoid an accident I backed out of it which probably let Steve Owen up the inside of me. We got down to turn one and I don't know if he got squeezed by me or not but I got a big smack in the back of the car and after that the rest was history."
Third after a solid and consistent drive were Chris Pither and George Miedecke in the United Videos Falcon, while Mitch Cunningham and Dean Canto took fourth in the third International Motorsport Falcon. There again in fifth with another good result in only their third V8ST event were Cam Waters and Simon McLennan in the M2 Motorsport Holden - a rapid pit stop being one of the contributing factors to their great result.
Single seater ace Chris van Der Drift led away from pole and despite having a car that was far from straight, he carved out an immediate three second advantage as Tasman's Dan Gaunt, Jono Webb, Cam Waters and Jack Perkins gave chase.
Van Der Drift led until he pitted at the end of the window to hand over to Tim Edgell, who was quickly caught up by a flying Murphy. Edgell defended robustly, but was given a five second penalty on the road for blocking.
Murphy then took command but he too was being chased down by a flying McLaughlin, who said his car was the best it had been all season. McLaughlin was himself recovering from a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane after the driver change and not only had Murphy in his sights but was looking odds on for the race win when he biffed the back of the Mike Pero M3 Racing Holden.
"I was trying to get a run on the straight and unfortunately I spun out Murph who is a Kiwi hero," a solemn McLaughlin said. "I would do it differently if I had my time again. I just bumped him at the wrong time and it was a bit of inexperience. It's the biggest mistake I've made all year but I will learn from it.
The penalties of McLaughlin and Edgell handed the race win to a delighted Tasman team, with Steve Horne's ultra-professional outfit rounding out the V8 SuperTourer season with Tasman's first win since the late nineties. Dan Gaunt had a typically strong first stint, with Andrew Waite impressing everyone with an exceptional second half of the race, a clear hint that he is ready for a full time V8ST drive next season.
Geoff Emery and Steve Owen were classified second - the best result of the year for the Supercheap Auto car, with Edgell and van Der Drift a frustrated third.