Promising New Zealand V8s driver Scott McLaughlin closed in on the second-tier Dunlop Series during the penultimate race at Sydney Olympic Park today by claiming the chequered flag after his closest rivals crashed out.
Fresh from winning the inaugural New Zealand V8 Supertourers at Ruapuna last weekend, the Gold Coast-based Aucklander is now poised to add the Supercars development title to his collection.
Heading into tomorrow's last race he leads Scott Pye by 94 points, a 62-point improvement on the advantage he held over Nick Percat heading into the two-pronged finale.
McLaughlin qualified on the second row but stormed into the lead by the end of the opening lap of the street circuit after pole-sitter Chaz Mostert and Percat provided the 19-year-old with a saloon passage to the front of the field.
Mostert lost control on the opening corner, slamming into a tyre wall before reversing into oncoming traffic - a move that cost him a drive-through penalty.
Soon after Percat, who trailed the Kiwi by 32 points at the start of the race, clipped a wall after refusing to give ground to McLaughlin's Fujitsu Racing Ford Falcon.
Percat overcorrected and scrapped another barricade, the twin impacts forcing him out of the race and ending his championship dreams.
While Mostert (Ford Performance Racing) was able to continue, race director Paul Taylor imposed a drive-through penalty which contributed to him finishing sixth.
Once in front McLaughlin embarked on a risk-free 17-lap journey that culminated in his third race win of the year-and first since the leg at Townsville, Far North Queensland, in July.
McLaughlin, who has been linked to the V8 Supercars seat due to be relinquished by Michael Caruso at Fujitsu Racing GRM, took the flag 0.6414 seconds ahead of Pye who improved from fourth to second on the competition ladder.
With a maximum of 150 points available tomorrow McLaughlin has to maintain composure one last time to finish the year in style.
He has amassed 1634 points, Pye has 1538 while Mostert (1527) is mathematically in range but will need to finish high and hope the Kiwi has a shocker.
- © Fairfax NZ News