Present at the test on Monday were Penske IndyCar stars Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden, who share four IndyCar drivers’ titles and two Indianapolis 500 wins.
Also on site was the legendary Rick Mears, who was also photographed giving McLaughlin tips during the day’s running.
Midway through the day, McLaughlin explained in a Twitter video posted to Team Penske’s social accounts about the immediate differences he had noticed in the IndyCar versus his Shell V-Power Racing Ford Mustang.
“[The] IndyCar is just unbelievable,” said the 26-year-old.
“Just huge G-forces, big braking, big aero grip and balance.
“I haven’t stalled coming out of the pits yet, so I’m happy … but I’ll probably stall now after lunch.”
“I’m really enjoying my time. I’ve got the suit on, the whole deal. It’s feeling good, it’s a dream come true.”
McLaughlin has been a force in Supercars since he moved to DJR Team Penske in 2017.
In three seasons with the Ford squad, the New Zealander claimed two drivers’ titles and 35 race wins, including a maiden Bathurst 1000 title in 2019.
McLaughlin is under contract with the Supercars squad for 2020, but his ambition to race overseas is no secret.
After the breakthrough Bathurst win, team owner Roger Penske suggested McLaughlin has what it takes to make it big Stateside.
“We want him to come over [to the United States] … he’s got a good future. You will see him in America I am sure in the near future,” Penske said in October.
“He’s a guy who knows how to win, knows how to race fast and has great commercial savvy to us in today’s world as we deal with our partners.”
Supercars technical staff are in a race against time to deliver the results and suggested aerodynamic changes following a second Vehicle Control Aerodynamic Testing [VCAT] process carried out this week.
The VCAT process was carried out with homologation teams Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske from Monday to Wednesday at Oakey Army Aviation Centre.
With the annual pre-season test at The Bend Motorsport Park under five weeks away, the results from this week’s three days of aero homologation testing will prove crucial ahead of the season-opening Superloop Adelaide 500 across February 20-23.
Critically, Supercars head of motorsport Adrian Burgess said the results from the VCAT will be distributed across all teams so as to help encourage a more level playing field.
Burgess admitted calling for a second VCAT was “obviously regrettable” but stressed finding and rectifying errors was “equally still part of the process”.
“By our standards, it’s the most comprehensive VCAT we’ve done, hopefully it delivers the results.”
Click here for more pictures from the second VCAT test
The second VCAT saw teams arrive at 4am and leave around 10pm in order to get the most out of ideal weather conditions.
Rigorous testing saw several different ride heights and setups used to enhance the likelihood of expected results.
Burgess conceded “a lot more downforce off the cars if we wanted to” but it would have encouraged additional costs for teams in the guise of front bar and rear wing changes, as well as other external changes.
Regardless, Burgess was keen to avoid mid-season changes like those which plagued the 2019 season with a tense parity debate following the raging success of the new-for-2019 Ford Mustang Supercar.
“What we’re trying to work is something quick and easy that the teams can introduce from the end of this VCAT once we scanned the cars and reprocessed the data, we’ll be able to have these changes in place for the test at Tailem Bend,” said Burgess.
“It’s definitely the direction we need to go … we’re all happy with it and I believe the pit lane is happy with the processes we’re putting in place.
“Yes, it is more complicated, it takes more time to achieve the result we want, but ultimately it’s about trying to achieve parity and equitable racing and that’s clearly what we want to see.
“Last year was hard for everybody making the changes, so we’ve taken the necessary steps to try to eradicate that issue from last year.”
Speaking at the Autosport International show, Richards suggested the sport has become more about “entertainment” than being ahead on technology.
“Traditionally, we have lived off the fact that we have driven new technologies,” said Richards, a former team principal of the BAR and Benetton teams.
“Sometimes it’s not necessarily been a technology per se, but it’s a great marketing platform. Audi with the four-wheel drive going into the Quattro, the paddle shifts, it’s standard on all sports cars these days.
“If you go back the last decade, we’ve lost that initiative. We’ve become entertainment, which is alright in itself, and there is a place for that, but I believe we’ve lost the initiative on technology.”
From the way drivers have to look after the power unit, to the sound generated by the unit themselves, the V6 hybrids have been a sticking point for many.
Even to last season, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel – after he retired in Russia following an MGU-K failure – remonstrated: “Bring back the f—ing V12s!”
Vettel was the world champion heading into the 2014 season, and was openly critical of the muffled sound of the hybrid units, labelling them as “s–t”.
Richards’ language wasn’t as strong, but his feelings were along the same vein, partivcualry with an eye on F1’s place in innovation and technology.
McLaughlin in an… IndyCar?
“I think quite frankly it started when they introduced these wonderful engines that they have in Formula 1 today,” said Richards regarding the lost “initiative”.
“They’re an extraordinary engineering feat with the hybrid systems on them – the whole sort of way that they operate – and the day they were introduced, Bernie Ecclestone said they were terrible and they sounded bad and how terrible this was for the sport. We just didn’t get it right from the outset.
“There are lots of solutions out there … a whole range of different technologies we should be promoting and we should be encouraging, and we’ve got to get on our front foot again.”
During an energy-efficiency conference at the Motorsport Industry Association, F1 technical consultant Pat Symonds explained why he was keen on seeing a two-stroke engine introduced in the sport – with a new system mooted to see F1 become greener than Formula E.
“Much more efficient, great sound from the exhaust and a lot of the problems with the old two strokes are just not relevant any more,” Symonds explained.
“The opposed piston engine is very much coming back and already in road car form at around 50 per cent efficiency.
“Direct injection, pressure charging, and new ignition systems have all allowed new forms of two-stroke engines to be very efficient and very emission-friendly.
“I think there’s a very high chance that there might still be an internal combustion engine but maybe it’s running on hydrogen … there’s nothing wrong with electric vehicles but there are reasons why they are not the solution for everyone.”
Red Bull Racing advisor Dr Helmet Marko was one to be taken aback, telling Auto Bild that Symonds’ comments were like a “carnival speech” – even though he would still consider it.
“I will seriously ask my engineers about it,” Marko said.
“We should know how much horsepower you can get out of them, how efficient are they really, and can they really work with alternative fuels.”