Kiwi charged for 'disgraceful' Bathurst move - could McLaughlin lose title?

Tyson Otto and James McKern, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 14 Oct 2019, 9:06am
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Kiwi charged for 'disgraceful' Bathurst move - could McLaughlin lose title?

Tyson Otto and James McKern, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 14 Oct 2019, 9:06am

Scott McLaughlin's maiden Bathurst victory could be ripped from his grasp after officials slapped a team orders rule breach charge against DJR/Team Penske.

The charge was handed down after an inquiry into the "disgraceful" actions taken by Supercars driver Fabian Coulthard during a late safety car period at the Bathurst 1000.

Officials originally hit Coulthard with a drive-through penalty during the race for breach of safety car procedures which saw him bunch and hold up the field as McLaughlin pitted for fuel for the final laps.

Coulthard's actions saw McLaughlin's lead increase from one second out to 47 after the yellow flags where first waved.

Heavy backlash flowed with Coulthard hitting back as he was just doing what he was told.

"It was a directive from the team," Coulthard told Supercars.com.

"The team said to me 'take extreme caution, the engine is hot'.

"I'm actually reading my phone now and I'm getting smashed for something I've been told to do.

"I'm a little bit pissed off. I did what I was told and I'm getting murdered for it."

The result will continue to remain provisional until a further hearing takes place at the Gold Coast 600 in late October.

The rule in question, D24.1, states that "Team Orders 24.1.1 Means an instruction to a Driver or Team member, either verbal or otherwise the effect of which may interfere with a race result."

Team boss Ryan Story immediately requested the chance to build a case against the charge and clear the team from any wrongdoing. That defence will come during a hearing at the Gold Coast 600.

At the time Coulthard looked to have ensured a two horse race between Whincup and McLaughlin for the title after his go slow approach during the yellow flag ensured a huge gap between a hard charging Shane van Gisbergen and the leading duo.

Coulthard's snail's pace also ensured he avoided double stacking, or waiting behind his teammate McLaughlin in the pits.

The team radio showed van Gisbergen was filthy about Coulthard's tactics. "Fabian is going stupidly slow," van Gisbergen said.

"Fabian should get a penalty for that, going stupidly slow. That was shocking."

McLaughlin went on to hold out a fast-finishing van Gisbergen by 0.68 seconds to claim his first Bathurst crown.

Supercars legend Larry Perkins branded Coulthard's actions as "disgraceful" on Sunday night.

His team, DJR Team Penske, dismissed the incident on Sunday night.

"Look I am not sure if that made the difference to who won the race," said American motorsport great Roger Penske, the majority owner of Coulthard's team DJR Team Penske.

"We can look at it and talk about it but it is secondary as far I am concerned when you think about it.

"Everyone had a chance, and the two top duelled it out in the end and the outcome was what we wanted."

Story insisted there was a problem with overheating in the car at the time of the controversy.

Coulthard said he took it slow because he was unaware of the location of the incident which had caused the safety car. "I just got told they didn't know where the incident was and to take extreme caution," Coulthard said.

Van Gisbergen clearly wasn't happy about the incident. "We certainly did get knocked down a few times today," Van Gisbergen said. "In the pits and then working back through the pack and got held up during the safety car by someone.

"It's pretty obvious what happened but we still would have had to fight it out with Jamie and Scott which would have been awesome and possibly closer but we were stuck behind traffic and more cars, but it is what it is."

"That car (Coulthard) has been the sacrificial lamb all year (for DJR Team Penske)," he added.

Supercars legend Mark Skaife said after the race that DJR Team Penske had used "gamesmanship" to keep McLaughlin ahead of van Gisbergen during his final pit stop.

"If you want to be glass half empty, you say they purposely slowed the whole field down to create the gap they needed to create to give the buffer they needed versus van Gisbergen," Skaife said.

"But also to give them a buffer to ensure they don't have to double stack. So if you want to play it all out, clearly there is a five car-length rule that you're supposed to observe. Clearly that was outside the rules. It was massive gamesmanship and I'm sure the was plenty of controversy from the Red Bull garage next door. There was a bit more gamesmanship than what we first thought."

The 2019 Bathurst 1000 came down right to the wire when a safety car gave McLaughlin some breathing room with just three laps remaining as rivals Shane van Gisbergen, James Courtney and Jamie Whincup breathed down his neck.

In a fight right to the final corner, McLaughlin held off van Gisbergen by just 0.68 seconds. James Courtney finished third while Jamie Whincup just missed out on a spot on the podium.

"I can't believe I bloody won the Bathurst 1000," McLaughlin said after earlier breaking down in tears immediately after crossing the finish line.

"I have dreamt about this. I put so much pressure on myself to make this a good one but I am so proud of this team."

The extraordinary finish was overshadowed by three huge moments of drama that earlier saw the race reach boiling point.

On a day of high drama, McLaughlin was able to win his first Bathurst crown as:

Just one of the 161 laps remained by the time the race re-started after the eighth and final safety car left the track, setting up a nail-biting finish. But McLaughlin held out hard-charging fellow New Zealander van Gisbergen, denying the Holden star his first Bathurst win.

It marked the first Bathurst win by McLaughlin's DJR team since 1994. McLaughlin also extended his series lead over nearest rival van Gisbergen to 622 points.

Leading Ford drivers Waters and Mostert – looming in third and fourth respectively – appeared threats but came into contact, ploughing into the gravel together on lap 124 to prompt a safety car and end their title quest.

Mostert made contact with Waters and both ended up in the gravel at The Chase, much to the disbelief of their livid team bosses in the same Ford garage. Mostert incurred a pit-lane penalty and finished 16th while Waters was 21st in the 26-strong field.

Mostert broke the race lap record in the dying moments, clocking two minutes, 04.76 seconds.

A total of 201,975 people flocked to Mount Panorama over four days.

Here's how it finished:

1 – Scott McLaughlin/ Alex Premat (Ford)

2 – Shane van Gisbergen/ Garth Tander (Holden)

3 – James Courtney/ Jack Perkins (Holden)

4 – Jamie Whincup/ Craig Lowndes (Holden)

5 – David Reynolds/ Luke Youlden (Holden)

6 – Fabian Coulthard/ Tony D'Alberto (Ford)

7 – Mark Winterbottom/Steven Richards (Holden)

8 – Scott Pye/ Warren Luff (Holden)

9 -Rick Kelly/Dale Wood (Nissan)

10 -Lee Holdsworth/ Thomas Randle (Ford)