Kiwi Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin has taken aim at his critics as he reflects on a successful year on the track, but a tough one off it.
The 26-year-old claimed his second consecutive Supercars Championship with a round to go, clinching victory at the Sandown 500.
He accomplished that despite having to deal with a messy aftermath from his Bathurst victory, which saw him stripped of a lap record and relegated to the back of the grid for the Sandown race, in addition to an atmosphere around Supercars which he called "toxic".
Speaking to Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave, McLaughlin said his success – having won a record 18 races this season – has seen him come under fire from detractors.
"This year hasn't been a fun year off the track, absolutely not, there's been a lot of bickering," McLaughlin explained.
"It's that tall poppy syndrome - when you're winning everyone just wants to drag you down. That's cool, we'll just move on and get on with it but certainly for me, getting away from the Supercars paddock is a lot better.
"Probably one of the best things I've done since being in Supercars is separate myself from the other drivers and just enjoy the camaraderie from my team and my family."
McLaughlin's team, DJR Team Penske, were penalised on multiple occasions for infractions at Bathurst, including for McLaughlin's teammate Fabian Coulthard driving slow on purpose during a safety car intervention, and were fined nearly $300,000 for their indiscretions.
That was one of the reasons why McLaughlin and his team came under fire, but the Kiwi driver says it only makes his overall success sweeter.
"There's a lot of drama. Absolutely there's been times where it's been up and down like a yo-yo for us, it's full-on and to get through all of that as a team and stick together when we could easily folded in, that's what makes you proud of this whole thing. It's not the wins, it's not the poles, it's the way that we've come out of it as a team.
"I'm proud of everyone and the effort this year to get us to this point."
However, despite all the drama, McLaughlin says he holds no current ambitions to move away from the Supercars scene.
"I love driving my Supercar; I'd never give it away for anything. It's just me getting used to the position I am in now. I've always been looked at as the underdog, and this year was the first time we've been performing almost every round up the front. It does take a little bit to get used to, not only for me but for the team as well.
"I learned a lot this year about who my friends really were, and the teams that really work for us or against us are, and I've taken a lot out of this year."
McLaughlin can now enjoy the final round in Newcastle with no pressure on him, safe in the knowledge that he has joined an exclusive club to win back-to-back Supercars titles.
The likes of Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Mark Skaife and Marcus Ambrose are the other drivers to have accomplished that feat in the last 20 years, and McLaughlin now plans to celebrate accordingly when he can finally raise the trophy aloft next fortnight.
"It was our goal since we built the big lead, to try and secure the championship before Newcastle to save a bit of stress. Now we're able to go to Newcastle and enjoy it.
"I'm absolutely stoked, but you just try to keep a lid on it, it's not the last round yet, and we've still got a job to do. It was a weird feeling, I've never been in this position, but it's not a bad position to be in.
"We had a meeting in the morning [and said] that if we did secure the Championship it was business as usual. Don't get me wrong, last night we had a few drinks with the team when we got away from the race track, but we want to be professional.
"We'll celebrate hard in Newcastle when we get that trophy."