SCOTT McLaughlin rebounded from his heartbreaking grand finale failure to beat Jamie Whincup for the first time since the Red Bull record breaker crushed his championship dream.
In their first toe-to-toe fight since the title deciding Newcastle 500, McLaughlin stormed past Whincup on lap 17 to become the first ever championship race winner at the Australia GP.
In DJR/Team Penske’s first win of the season, McLaughlin bounced back from his championship failure to beat the man that stole what would have been his first ever V8 championship crown.
“It was an awesome battle that I had with Jamie out there,’’ McLaughlin said. “I am stoked to get that win. Jamie and I also battle hard but fair and it felt good to have another battle with him. It was so much fun.’’
McLaughlin was last year stripped of the Supercars championship when a post race penalty in the final race handed Whincup his recording continuing 7th title.
The Ford flyer fired his first shot of this season to declare war on Red Bull after Penske failed to fire in the season starting Adelaide 500.
“It was great to get a one-three with Fabian (Coulthard) finishing third,’’ McLaughlin said.
“Hopefully we will continue and get a couple of one-twos over the rest of the weekend.’’
The battle between Red Bull and Penske begun earlier in the day with Whincup and McLaughin trading blows as qualifying continued.
After winning a pole on piece on the opening day of the Australian GP, the men that went toe-to-toe for the 2017 title took another qualifying win each.
McLaughlin struck first when he blasted his way to the quickest lap to score pole-position for race three.
Then it was Whincup, the reigning champion hitting back to win the fourth qualifying fling.
The first ever championship race at the Australian GP roared to life with Whincup screaming off the line to steal second place from Fabian Coulthard.
Whincup’s Commodore launching like a rocket, the Red Bull record breaker made an unsuccessful challenge to steal the race lead from McLaughlin at the second turn.
McLaughlin fended off the challenge before going about consolidating his lead.
Whincup stole the lead in spectacular style when he came out of the one and only pit-stop just inches in front of McLaughlin.
“We had a little issue in that stop,’’ said DJR Penske boss Ryan Story.
“It wasn’t up to our usual standard.’’
But McLaughlin made up for the mistake when he pounced on lap 17 to pass Whincup and record his first win since the Newcastle 500.
“The guys gave me a really great car,’’ McLaughlin said. “It is full credit to them and hopefully we can continue with this form over the weekend.’’
Coulthard made it a day to remember for Penske when held on to score his first podium finish of the year.
Penske boss Story praised McLaughlin after he landed the team a season starting win.
“He did a ripping job,’’ Story said. “We didn’t make it easy for him but he got the job done.’’
Adelaide 500 winner Shane van Gisbergen continue his season assault by dragging his Commodore to fourth to retain the championship lead.