McLaughlin wins Supercars' return race

Two-time defending champion Scott McLaughlin has secured his 45th Supercars career victory after holding off a late challenge from Shane van Gisbergen.

SHANE VAN GISBERGEN driver of the #97 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore ZB looks on during race 15 for the Supercars Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin, Australia.
SHANE VAN GISBERGEN driver of the #97 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore ZB looks on during race 15 for the Supercars Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin, Australia. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Ford flyer Scott McLaughlin is still the one to beat after blitzing the field from pole in the first Supercars race since February.

The two-time defending champion showed no signs of rust as the championship resumed at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday, producing a dominant drive in the first of three 33-lap races this weekend.

Despite the best efforts of Red Bull Holden's Shane van Gisbergen, McLaughlin secured a stunning victory - the 45th of his Supercars career.

The 27-year-old is just three wins away from equalling legend Peter Brock in fifth-place on the all-time series win list.

Van Gisbergen closed in on his New Zealand rival during a thrilling finale, but McLaughlin held off several overtaking attempts to take the chequered flag at a spectator-less track in western Sydney.

"He's (van Gisbergen) like a cockroach, I can never get rid of him, he's always around," McLaughlin said.

"I knew I was going to be in a little bit of trouble in that last stint because of the way he came at me in the first ... it was a tough last five laps.

"It's bloody good. When you've got nice little silverware right next to you it's been a good day."

Seven-time champion Jamie Whincup rounded out the podium, but finished well back from the two frontrunners and never looked a chance of pinching victory.

"These guys were too quick today and very fast out of the gate this morning so we'll have a look at it tonight," Whincup said.

Former Ford favourite Chaz Mostert (fourth) continued his impressive form since switching to Holden in the off-season, while Nick Percat crossed the line in fifth.

McLaughlin and Whincup won the only two previously completed races of the season so far, sharing honours at the Adelaide 500 in February.

Practice sessions were held for the Australian Grand Prix round in March before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event.

McLaughlin will enter Sunday's two races after extending his early championship lead to 47 points ahead of Whincup.

Van Gisbergen already has plenty of ground to make up after a disastrous second race in Adelaide when he failed to finish despite leading for most of the 78-lap affair.


AAP