Motorsport: Defending champ backs McLaughlin as title contender

Race winner Scott McLaughlin is pictured with his trophies at the V8 Supercars Phillip Island. Photo / Getty Images
Race winner Scott McLaughlin is pictured with his trophies at the V8 Supercars Phillip Island. Photo / Getty Images

Reigning V8 Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom says Scott McLaughlin's clean sweep on Phillip Island has inserted the Volvo young gun into the title conversation.

McLaughlin was simply unbeatable on the Island, taking pole and storming to victories in both Saturday and Sunday races.

The superior pace of the Volvo S60 gave McLaughlin a drama-free drive, making the sensational look simple.

In Sunday's 200km race, he beat home Winterbottom and DJR Team Penske man Scott Pye, celebrating with wild burnouts on the coastal circuit.

The points haul elevated McLaughlin to second in the championship and Winterbottom said he couldn't think of a reason why Garry Rogers Motorsport couldn't host an unlikely series winner.

"There's probably eight guys genuinely in contention this year and they're definitely at the top of that list," he said.

"He was in a league of his own all weekend."

McLaughlin arrived on the Island without success in 44 races but is now the only man with two wins to his name this season.

The 22-year-old leaves with a new lap record, $2000 for his pair of pole positions and with 300 championship points added to his tally.

"To have a weekend like this, I've never had it in my career," McLaughlin said.

"It's been amazing."

Jamie Whincup (651 points) heads the overall leaderboard, 15 ahead of McLaughlin (636), with Winterbottom (627) and Craig Lowndes (615) in close range.

McLaughlin's biggest challenge came on the opening lap from Jamie Whincup.

Whincup tried an audacious outside pass on McLaughlin but the 22-year-old held firm, refusing to yield and sending the Red Bull man wide onto the grass.

Team boss Garry Rogers applauded his effort from the garage.

"That's what you want.

You don't want the ones who give up and sook it," he told Fox Sports.

Whincup was able to recover from his wild ride without losing position, holding onto second place until the dying laps when he ran wide and allowed Winterbottom and Pye in for their podium positions.

In a first-lap frenzy, Fabian Coulthard struggled to get off the grid and Chaz Mostert was turned around by Garth Tander.

Coulthard would finish in the pits while Mostert would recover well to finish eighth.

Cam Waters' tyre blow-out on the high-speed main straight brought a safety car and restart with just eight laps remaining.

It made no difference to McLaughlin, who continued unchallenged.

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