Supercars heavyweights Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup clashed in a dramatic first-lap incident at Tailem Bend that will have serious championship ramifications.
The angst between Ford ace McLaughlin and Red Bull Holden’s Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen was already simmering but it boiled over during Saturday’s race at the South Australian track.
McLaughlin’s Shell V-Power teammate Fabian Coulthard capitalised on the early collision to claim his 13th career victory in the most eventful race of the 2020 season.
But Coulthard’s first victory since Perth last year was almost pushed to the side by the battle between McLaughlin and Whincup, who are the only genuine contenders for this year’s title.
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McLaughlin claimed an early lead after flying past Holden’s Chaz Mostert, who started the 24-lap race from pole.
But on turn-18 of the first-lap, McLaughlin spun off the track after Whincup hit the side of his Mustang to leave the New Zealander flailing in 18th.
The incident earned Whincup an immediate 15-second penalty, while McLaughlin copped the same punishment. The Kiwi was involved in another incident later in the race, where he made contact with Lee Holdsworth and was penalised again.
It left McLaughlin 15th, while Whincup’s final position was 19th.
Coulthard was pushed hard by Tickford Racing’s Jack Le Brocq in second, while Bryce Fullwood was the first Ford across the line in third.
“Today was an awesome way to finish 200 round starts, and it was a lot of fun,” Coulthard said of his victory.
“I said to the guys that even if I didn’t win the race was still a lot of fun.”
To get a win was awesome and I can’t thank my guys enough. We can always improve and make the car better so I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I made a small error in the shootout but we had a really good race car.
“It was a good, clean and fair battle, and I think it made some great TV.”
As for McLaughlin and his controversial incident with Whincup, the defending Supercars champion said he expected the veteran to make a move on him.
“I knew Jamie was going to have a crack on that opening lap and I tried to give him the room to do it, but he must have hit the inside and lost a wheel and hit me,” McLaughlin said.
“I pretty much knew he would be probably be penalised after that, so it was about me trying to maximise what I had from there on. I felt like we were doing that.
“For me, the move on Holdsworth was on and I had a crack. I wanted to try and get on the podium with my team mate – and congratulation to Fabian for the win – but for some reason the stewards didn’t agree with it.
“I fully understand being in control of your car and diving down the inside, but the whole time I was completely in control and there was no lockup.
“The guy on the outside has to give you some space, and I was stuck on the inside and couldn’t go any further left, so what could I do?”