Scott McLaughlin banks on flying Frenchman for Supercars success
Scott McLaughlin will put his hopes of winning this year's Supercars championship in the hands of Alex Premat, and is delighted to do so.
Next weekend's round in Sandown is the first of the three endurance rounds of the Supercars season, with the others being Bathurst and Gold Coast.
For these races there are co-drivers for each car, so the main game drivers have to watch on anxiously from the pits, while usually a less experienced driver goes out for a spin.
McLaughlin partners up with Alex Premat from France, having previously driven with him in 2014 and 2015.
Last year McLaughlin's co-driver was Australian David Wall, while Premat teamed up with Shane van Gisbergen at Triple Eight and won the Endurance Cup with him, but McLaughlin revealed he was desperate to re-unite with Premat this year.
"I missed him, he's a great guy and we have a really good relationship," McLaughlin said.
"To have him back in my corner is fantastic, he's probably the best co-driver you could have."
McLaughlin, who was driving a Volvo for GRM last year, said he made the move to drive with Premat again, as soon as the 2016 endurance series finished.
"I spoke to him straight after Gold Coast," McLaughlin said.
"I told him I was going to Penske and I wanted him to drive with me.
"We always talked about him coming back. I think he was over GRM and a few things, so he couldn't really knock back Triple Eight.
"But he knows that Penske team is on par, so it's cool to have him back."
McLaughlin's Kiwi team-mate Fabian Coulthard has split with his usual co-driver Luke Youlden and will be with Tony D'Alberto.
Van Gisbergen will be with 22-year-old Matt Campbell, who usually drives in the Australian Porsche Carrera Cup or the European Porsche Supercup.
Even though he was Todd Kelly's co-driver in the endurance rounds last season, it will be a big learning curve for Campbell in one of the category's top teams, but van Gisbergen has played down the risk.
Richie Stanaway, who was so impressive as Chris Pither's co-driver for the now defunct Super Black Racing team last year, has got himself another drive in the endurance rounds and will be with Cameron Waters at PRA.
McLaughlin holds a slender 12-point lead over Jamie Whincup, with Coulthard a further 95 points back, and with double points up for grabs in the endurance rounds it could be any one of the trio who comes through to take the championship.
"The hardest thing is that us two Shell V Power cars will be up the front, but then there are the Triple Eight cars who'll be there too," McLaughlin said.
"It will be one little slip-up that leaves the others in good position to take advantage of that.
It's exciting right now, but it is nerve-wracking."
This season has been a unique one for McLaughlin. During his time with GRM he was always faster than his season-long team-mate, whether that was Premat, Wall, Robert Dhalgren, or James Moffat.
But this year though, with Coulthard in the other half of the garage, he's got someone who can go just as fast as him and he says that's made a big difference.
"It's massive," he said.
"Having Fabian there every step of the way is awesome for me and I'm learning.
"It's also made me faster, because there are some points where he's faster by being a left-foot braker, so sometimes I change to braking with my left foot and that's made me faster in that position.
"He's definitely helped me grow as a driver and the team have helped with that too, they've kept a good environment.
"We get along well, it's hard but fair racing between the two of us and we want to beat each other as much as anyone else, but it's a good, competitive rivalry.
- Sunday News