Kiwis lead Penske's Bathurst 1000 charge

Author
Ed Jackson - AAP,
Section
Sport,
Publish Date
Monday, 2 October 2017, 5:17PM
Scott McLaughlin & Alexandre Prémat (Photosport)
Scott McLaughlin & Alexandre Prémat (Photosport)

It's the holy grail of Australian motorsport - a Bathurst 1000 victory - and American Roger Penske is out to add the title to his incredible tally of big- race victories.

The billionaire DJR Team Penske founder is a 16-time Indianapolis 500 winner as a team owner and a two-time Daytona 500 champion.

It's decades of dominance that comes with a simple nickname, "The Captain".

And now The Captain is steering for glory at Mount Panorama.

Penske's third assault on Bathurst this month is his strongest yet since entering the Supercars championship in 2015.

Scott McLaughlin arrives at Mount Panorama as the championship leader and on the back of an impressive second-placed finish with co-driver Alex Premat at the Sandown 500 in early September.

Fellow New Zealander Fabian Coulthard is also firmly in the championship mix and finished fifth in Sandown to show his Ford Falcon has plenty of endurance pace too.

McLaughlin says there's no secret part of Penske's Down Under venture is to win the iconic 1000km race.

"It's something he wants to do obviously, he wants to win everything," McLaughlin told AAP.

"That's certainly what he's come to do, the work they've done with Fabian last year and Scott Pye and the year before with Scott Pye and (Marcos) Ambrose, they've worked towards having a successful team.

"We're only a little way through what we want to do and what we want to achieve but a Bathurst win would be pretty high up in his resume.

"For me or Fabian to win it for him would be a pretty good dream come true."

McLaughlin himself is excited about his chances at Bathurst.

The 24-year-old was firmly in the mix at last year's race before a collision with Holden's Jamie Whincup with 15 laps to go ended his hopes.

Whincup would go on to cop a 15-second penalty for his role in the crash while Tekno Autosports pair Will Davison and Jonathon Webb took advantage for a surprise victory.

McLaughlin says last year's finish just goes to show how much luck, as well as form and reliability, play a role in the longest Supercars race of the year.

"At the end of the day it's about buying your ticket to the end, to the last 24 laps," he said.

"We didn't have a safety car last year until lap 90 so it is basically a sprint race at the end but all day is about setting up for that last fuel stop.

"We've got a car that is capable of doing the business but, like we see all the time, you could have the fastest car all day and you're not quite there at the end. It's just about making sure you do everything right and be comfortable with not only qualifying speed but race speed."

By his own admission the championship situation will be an added factor for McLaughlin if he finds himself in a battle for positions at the end of the race.

At Sandown, McLaughlin admits he was aware of the situation of his championship rivals such as Red Bull Racing's Jamie Whincup and didn't take any extra risks in his pursuit of eventual winners Cameron Waters and Richie Stanaway.

"Bathurst is a whole different race in itself to be honest, I'd put it above most things," he said.

"I really would push to the very end with Bathurst."

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