McLaughlin takes Monza Eseries win despite fuel drama
Scott McLaughlin won a shortened final race of the opening Supercars All Stars Eseries round, although may not have seen the finish had it run its full distance.
Early drama and a subsequent Safety Car meant the race was called off a lap early, good news for McLaughlin who crossed the line with just a litre of fuel of his sleeve.
That wouldn't have been enough to complete the final lap if needed, McLaughlin and his real-world race engineer Richard Harris successfully rolling the dice on an aggressive second stint.
The race got off to spectacular start, with two big pile-ups on the opening lap.
Then first was at the first chicane, Zane Goddard nudging Anton De Pasquale into Chaz Mostert to kick things off, before chaos followed.
With plenty of cars then carrying damage there was an even more spectacular clash on the run to the second chicane, which left Bryce Fullwood flying through the air and Shane van Gisbergen upside down.
That led to driving standards advisor Craig Baird calling for a Safety Car, but not before Cam Waters played a strategic blinder.
Having been caught up in the first lap action, the Monster Mustang driver managed to pit before the SC was formally called, which meant satisfying the mandatory stop.
With early leader McLaughlin pitting later in the Safety Car phase, Waters was clear to lead the way once the race went green again.
McLaughlin, however, had to pace to carve his way back through the field, breezing past Waters to reclaim the lead on at the start of Lap 15.
The aggressive driving did come at a fuel penalty for McLaughlin though, which left him running around half a litre short in the closing laps.
However a time certain finish a lap early made the distance, McLaughlin able to take the win with a litre worth of fuel in his tank – three less than required to complete a tour of the Monza circuit.
"It was pretty tight there, because we just didn't know how many laps until the end," said McLaughlin. "We had to take the pitstop, and we were able to get away with it.
"I think just trying to get the lead early, and get out of the crap in the esses, was ideal.
"I had so much fun today, and I think that's the main thing. I hope everyone at home enjoyed it, because I think it's going to be cool."
Waters finished second ahead of former teammate Mostert, who recovered well from his Lap 1 spin.
Tickford teammates Will Davison and Jack Le Brocq were fourth and fifth, followed by Andre Heimgartner and Fabian Coulthard.
Winterbottom, who was fired into the wall on the run to the first turn for a second time tonight, remarkably finished eighth. Even more remarkably he'd been in the fight for fourth spot until three laps from the end, when he spun at the first chicane.
Adding more value to McLaughlin's win was that his chief title rivals De Pasquale and van Gisbergen struggled in the Round 1 finale.
De Pasquale was fired into the wall on the run to Ascari while on his way through the field after his stop by Chris Pither. The Team Sydney driver was hit with a drive-through penalty, while De Pasquale was classified 23rd.
Van Gisbergen, meanwhile, was a spot back in 24th.
As a result McLaughlin holds a healthy series lead, with an early 44-point buffer over Waters and Mostert.
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