When you're the V8 Supercars champion at the age of 25, there's nothing you want more than to race.

The problem is the season finishes in November, there's no testing till February and the new season doesn't start till March. So what does Scott McLaughlin do to get his fix in the off season? He goes back to where it all started.

"It's a long time not driving so I'm going to get my go-kart out a few times in the off season and do some races. It's more for fun, but it's also good for the soul."

McLaughlin's first taste of a life behind a steering wheel came in karts in Hamilton as a 7-year-old. Now with him due to spend some time with his parents at Mount Maunganui over the holidays, he's looking forward to getting back to the machines which he raced well into his teens.


But a few spins in a kart in the next few weeks is a long way from the heady heights he's reached during 2018. After some tense moments in his battles with arch rival Shane van Gisbergen during the last two rounds at Pukekohe and Newcastle, McLaughlin drove a consistently steady race on the final day of the championship around the streets of Newcastle to finish second behind David Reynolds and take the title by 71 points from van Gisbergen.

"You've worked for it your whole life so you've always got that monkey on your back waiting for it to come. Eventually you have got it done, and that's the cool thing about it. I can go into next season and there won't be as much pressure," he says.

"There's still pressure to win but it's a lot less stress for me about winning one (championship) because it's done. I've won it. Now I can into next season a bit more relaxed and focus on a few other things and that's going to be the most life-changing thing for me."

The last race at Newcastle was reminiscent of 2017. That time he took a 78-point lead into the final afternoon, had a few tangles, a penalty or three and lost the championship to Jamie Whincup. So the experience of 12 months earlier was crucial this year.

"There was quite a bit of déjà vu about last year. It was very nerve-racking especially for me and my family and it was full-on. It was about trying to keep focus. It's very easy to lose focus around a street circuit because there's so many big screens you can look at and see what's going on with everyone. It's very cool, but you have to keep focus."

When the Supercars held their annual prizegiving in Sydney eights days after the final race, McLaughlin had a little extra surprise. Not only did he collect the trophy for the championship itself, but he was also named the most popular driver, as voted for by the fans.

"That was cool, a bit surprising, a proud moment for me. You always try to look after the fans as much as you can and give them as much time as you can without taking away what you normally do at the track and it's very cool that they voted for me."

In 2019 McLaughlin will not only be a be a marked man as the defending champion, he'll also be in a new car. Team DJR Penske, who run the Shell V-Power team are moving from Falcons to Mustangs for the new season.

"We've done a couple of test days already and it feels really good. I think it'll be a good thing for the (Supercars) category, but it's also great for Ford fans.

"I wouldn't say it's a huge amount different, but it's probably a bit more refined. It's very exciting. It's given us a chance for the group at Penske to have an original car to build something from scratch and that's exciting."

But the new car will not mean a change of number. He's inherited the legacy of the famous number 17 used by the legendary Dick Johnstone - the DJ of DJR(acing) - and will keep that next year in the Mustang.

"I don't see any reason to go with number 1. We might do it at test days but as soon as racing comes around it'll be normal. Valentino Rossi in the MotoGP doesn't run number 1 and the Nascar champions don't either."

The first races for 2019 are at Adelaide on March 2 and 3. Before then some summer days in the Mount beckon.