AN off-season trip to the United States, where he got engaged, has helped Scott McLaughlin rebound from a heartbreaking end to his 2017 Supercars title bid.
McLaughlin started last year’s final race in Newcastle from pole, leading the championship and needing only to finish 11th to secure a maiden title.
However three penalties — including one levied while 11th on the final lap — meant he lost out to Jamie Whincup, who scored a record seventh crown.
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McLaughlin was back in a race car last Friday, testing the McLaren he will race in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour next month before his 2018 Supercars tilt begins.
“It starts at the Bathurst 12 Hour, but obviously my Supercar season starts in Adelaide for the Adelaide 500,” he said. “I’m really excited for that.
“(Last year) was close, but it just wasn’t meant to happen for us. For us as a team, though, we ticked a lot of boxes and got the teams’ championship, which is what we were after.
“As a driving group, we just missed out on the championship but we come in with a lot of focus for 2018 and we’re feeling confident for it.”
The Shell V-Power Racing driver spent the Christmas and New Year period in New York with his family and American partner Karly, popping the question in her home city.
“I had a good time over there, forgot about racing for a little bit but (now I’m) really keen to get back into it,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.
“Karly and I got engaged in New York; it’s pretty special, she’s from there.
“And for me to be able to think about something else after Newcastle — obviously the heart was sort of broken after that race — and to forget about racing and then focus on something else it was very important.
“The feeling that we had, it was pretty special, something I’ll never forget.”
McLaughlin won a season-high eight races and set a new record of 16 poles last year, his first season with the Shell Ford outfit.
McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard — who became a father last October — finished third and will enter this season with a new engineer and Falcon.
Shell V-Power Racing managing director Ryan Story told Supercars.com that McLaughlin has returned from the break “pumped”.
“He’s been working on channelling his fitness and getting his focus and his fitness back to where it needs to be,” Story said.
“He’s chomping at the bit and looking forward to getting back into a race car. He gets an opportunity to do that pretty soon, racing at the 12 Hour, which will be great for him.
“He’s looking forward to getting the helmet back on and getting into it.
“I know Fabian is, too, he’s been full-time Dad over the break. He’s looking forward to getting back into the cockpit, so we’ve got a lot to be excited about.”