In conversation with our champion
What a year for young Scott McLaughlin. Fast early on in the inaugural V8ST season, the team had more than its fair share of issues to iron out and looked down and out for the season at Manfeild.
At the following round at Hampton Downs, however, Scott and the team bounced back in the most emphatic way possible, clean sweeping all races at the North Waikato track on the back of wins in the V8 Supercar Development Series in Australia. From that moment on he was the SuperTourer series pacesetter. Having 'zero scored' at Manfeild, he had to bag big points from every remaining round to have a chance of the title, and that is exactly what he did.
We caught up with him to get his thoughts on a career changing year, and looked forward to seeing him wear the coveted Number One on his Holden at Hampton Downs in just a few weeks time.
A stellar season post Manfeild - on both sides of the Tasman - what are you up to right now?
SM – Just chilling out and enjoying the off season, because hopefully 2013 will be bigger and better with my first season in the main V8 Supercar championship and running the #1 on the door of my SuperTourer.
How does it feel to know you will be on the grid at Hampton Downs wearing Number 1 and defending your title?
SM – It's a pretty awesome feeling but all I want to do is make sure I keep it on the side of my car for the year after! I can't wait as I haven't worn Number 1 before on a race car.
What did you enjoy most about your first season in V8 SuperTourers?
SM - The competitiveness of the series, there really is not much you can change on the cars so you pretty much just have to cut the crap and drive to the absolute limit. That's a big part of it. I also just love to race in New Zealand.
What was the most frustrating aspect?
SM - Our engine problems early on in the season they really made it difficult to show our true pace early on in the season. That was hugely frustrating for everyone involved.
How does the closeness of the racing compare to what you have done before?
SM - I haven't done a whole lot of racing since go karts, but it does bring me back to karts when everything was so close and you had to be millimetre perfect with each lap and each change you did to your machine.
We've tried a few qualifying formats in Season 1 - what was your favourite or would you do something different again?
SM - The shootout at Pukekohe was great. That kind of thing mixes the order a bit and you get a second chance to improve on your position. There is a lot of pressure for the driver and it is also its great for the fans and the sponsors!
How easy are the cars to set up?
SM - Well that all depends on how good the people you have around you are and my boys are great. They're so good I reckon they make it easier than it should be...
Is there a particular way to drive a SuperTourer?
SM - I'm not going to give anything away...... but more throttle less brake always helps!
Can you make it go faster, but at the expense of the tyres?
SM - You can, but you have to be careful you have to find the limit and make sure you don't push it past that limit too many times.
And what about the tyres, your impressions of the Hankooks?
SM – They are the best tyre I have driven on. The tyre is very durable and it's very impressive to think that after 53 laps at Ruapuna in the race I still could punch out the lap record!!
Drivers with experience from every major racing category in the world have taken part in Season 1 - what is it that makes this sort of spec formula attractive for drivers?
SM – I'm not sure, I think it's good seat time for some drivers so they can keep race fit as we don't really have short races, but also its so close and the cars are great to drive so I guess that's also a major factor in driver appeal.
In the current climate, most major racing countries are either following the spec philosophy or moving towards it - does NZ have a head start in that respect?
SM - For sure I think the way we are doing it over here is great and showing the world how good at motorsport New Zealand can actually be.
There have been quite a few new sponsors large and small to motorsport this season thanks to V8ST - what do you think they like about it?
SM - Obviously the popularity of the series as a whole has been huge in New Zealand so obviously that helps but also having big names like Greg Murphy, Johnny Mac and Steve Richards racing builds the profile of the series quite a bit.
Drivers, teams, cars have all been accessible to the public over the race weekends, is that important?
SM - For sure and we need to keep it up - there is nothing better than for the fan to get to know the series by catching up with the people behind it and figuring out what it's all about.
A neat aspect has been the sharing of drivers in enduros across the Tasman – is this a trend that can continue in a productive way for the teams and the drivers?
SM - Definitely if it's been handled in the right way and sponsors allow it. It certainly worked for our team.
Is there one highlight from the season that you can really remember and still smile about?
SM - Clean Sweeping Round 4. Pole, three fastest laps and three wins over the weekend – it doesn't get much better than that!
What is your favourite NZ V8ST circuit and why?
SM – It's Taupo for me because it is so long and you have to keep the car flowing through every turn. Pukekohe comes close but I went better at Taupo this year so that's my favourite!