Dale Budge is a sports writer for the NZ Herald.

Motorsport: McLaughlin in the spotlight

Kiwi driver Scott McLaughlin is expected to perform well at Team Penske but may take time to get up to speed. Photos / Photosport
Kiwi driver Scott McLaughlin is expected to perform well at Team Penske but may take time to get up to speed. Photos / Photosport

Kiwi Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin knows the spotlight will be on him at this weekend's season opening round on the streets of Adelaide.

The 23-year-old made the headline move in the off-season to join DJR Team Penske and will go into the season as a genuine title contender on paper although there is some uncertainty about how the Ford outfit will perform straight away.

"I obviously want to try and win some races but until we get under way and find out where we are and how quick I am in race conditions, it is hard to tell," McLaughlin said. "I will get through this weekend and then try to set some goals.

"It is just about trying to get up to pace as quickly as I can.

"It needs to be one step at a time - we want to win as quickly as possible but we can't rush it."

Having added McLaughlin to drive alongside fellow Kiwi Fabian Coulthard as well as snaring former Triple Eight Racing engineer Ludo Lacroix, many people expect the Queensland-based team to challenge Triple Eight - the undisputed leading team for the past decade.

"Anything is possible," said McLaughlin. "We have a great team behind us, mechanics and engineers and personnel that really know a lot about the sport.

"The team we have at the moment is one that can take it to Triple Eight and we have the belief to do that as well."

McLaughlin watched in awe last year as Triple Eight's Shane van Gisbergen became the first New Zealander in quarter of a century to win the championship. He was inspired by his countryman's performance and now has his eyes set on achieving similar things.

"Shane did a fantastic job last year and was a deserving champion. It was pretty special what he did and what that team did. It is a good carrot for us to chase."

McLaughlin has had a busy off-season as he made the trip between his Melbourne home and the team's base in Queensland.

McLaughlin wants to win quickly but knows the team can't rush. Photo / Supplied
McLaughlin wants to win quickly but knows the team can't rush. Photo / Supplied

"I have been up in Queensland as much as I can with the boys.

"At the moment, I am just on the run - I am doing my own thing in Melbourne but I will move up once I get a few races under my belt.

"I have been moving around the country a fair bit but the team has made it easy. My parents are up there, so that makes things a little bit easier, too."

He will also take plenty out of his impressive performance in last week's official test day in which he posted the second fastest time, while Coulthard was third.

"It was good - I felt comfortable in the car straight away," he said. "It was good to get a full day in the car and try different things - things I haven't tried and really for me to get to know who Ludo is and try and understand him.

"As a team, second and third is great but it is early days."

McLaughlin has enjoyed his previous attempts at the traditional season-opening event and nominates the Clipsal 500 as one of his favourites. In 2014, he made his famous post-match quote about "giving it some jandal" after holding off a charging Jamie Whincup.

"It is up there. It is probably my most favourite apart from Bathurst. It is a good way to start the year. This gets the huge crowds and it is a pretty special place to be."

- NZ Herald

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