Kiwi Bathurst champion Scott McLaughlin sympathises with the hard-chasing Shane van Gisbergen in the wake of his controversial win yesterday, but insists there was no 'intentional' go-slow from his team.
But McLaughlin's maiden Bathurst victory could be ripped from his grasp after officials slapped a team orders rule breach charge against DJR/Team Penske.
The charge was handed down after an inquiry into the "disgraceful" actions taken by Supercars driver Fabian Coulthard during a late safety car period at the Bathurst 1000.
Officials originally hit Coulthard with a drive-through penalty during the race for breach of safety car procedures which saw him bunch and hold up the field as McLaughlin pitted for fuel for the final laps.
Coulthard's actions saw McLaughlin's lead increase from one second out to 47 after the yellow flags were first waved, though the field re-grouped as the safety car continued after the cars had completed their pit-stops.
"I only found out about what had happened at the press conference," McLaughlin told D'Arcy Waldegrave on Radio Sport. "It certainly wasn't intentional from our point of view, Fabian was just doing something he needed to do, but I just pushed on. We had a great car all day and unfortunately for him there is a bit of conjecture there, but he drove a great race and I feel bad for him, that's for sure.
"Shane is the ultimate competitor, probably the toughest in the sport and I can understand he'd be pretty gutted but he drove a hell of a race."
Heavy backlash followed the race as Coulthard hit back, saying he was just doing what he was told.
"It was a directive from the team," Coulthard told Supercars.com.
"The team said to me 'take extreme caution, the engine is hot'.
"I'm actually reading my phone now and I'm getting smashed for something I've been told to do.
"I'm a little bit pissed off. I did what I was told and I'm getting murdered for it."
The result will continue to remain provisional until a further hearing takes place at the Gold Coast 600 in late October.
The rule in question, D24.1, states that "Team Orders 24.1.1 Means an instruction to a Driver or Team member, either verbal or otherwise the effect of which may interfere with a race result."
Team boss Ryan Story immediately requested the chance to build a case against the charge and clear the team from any wrongdoing. That defence will come during a hearing at the Gold Coast 600.
At the time Coulthard looked to have ensured a two horse race between Whincup and McLaughlin for the title after his go slow approach during the yellow flag ensured a huge gap between a hard charging Shane van Gisbergen and the leading duo.
Coulthard's snail's pace also ensured he avoided double stacking, or waiting behind his teammate McLaughlin in the pits.
The team radio showed van Gisbergen was filthy about Coulthard's tactics. "Fabian is going stupidly slow," van Gisbergen said.
"Fabian should get a penalty for that, going stupidly slow. That was shocking."
McLaughlin went on to hold out a fast-finishing van Gisbergen by 0.68 seconds to claim his first Bathurst crown.
Supercars legend Larry Perkins branded Coulthard's actions as "disgraceful" on Sunday night.
His team, DJR Team Penske, dismissed the incident on Sunday night.
"Look I am not sure if that made the difference to who won the race," said American motorsport great Roger Penske, the majority owner of Coulthard's team DJR Team Penske.
"We can look at it and talk about it but it is secondary as far I am concerned when you think about it.
"Everyone had a chance, and the two top duelled it out in the end and the outcome was what we wanted."
Van Gisbergen clearly wasn't happy about the incident. "We certainly did get knocked down a few times today," Van Gisbergen said. "In the pits and then working back through the pack and got held up during the safety car by someone.
"It's pretty obvious what happened but we still would have had to fight it out with Jamie and Scott which would have been awesome and possibly closer but we were stuck behind traffic and more cars, but it is what it is."
"That car (Coulthard) has been the sacrificial lamb all year (for DJR Team Penske)," he added.
It was the first Bathurst win by McLaughlin's DJR team since 1994. McLaughlin also extended his series lead over nearest rival van Gisbergen to 622 points.