This weekend's Sandown 500 serves as the first major hurdle Kiwi drivers Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin have in their race for the 2018 Supercars title.

Van Gisbergen leads McLaughlin by 19 points but the pair is more than 300 clear of third-placed Jamie Whincup with just eight races left in the season.

The endurance events at Sandown and Bathurst, where double points are on offer, feature as the two races where the chasing pack can make significant ground in one fell swoop.

The fact co-drivers will also play a massive role in these next three rounds also acts as a championship wildcard and barriers that could really impact either drivers' chances of winning the title.


Shell V-Power racer McLaughlin has never won one of the big endurance events and would dearly love to taste victory in a major race over the next month while also boosting his championship position.

"To win Sandown would just be fantastic for our championship and to win Bathurst would be career-defining," McLaughlin said.

"I definitely think as a squad we can do it. We know our cars are good at both rounds so we just need to put it altogether."

While Bathurst is rated by many drivers as being as big as the championship as a whole, Sandown is slightly different. It holds a little more significance than a normal race but it is very much a precursor to Bathurst.

The Shell V-Power Ford outfit has enjoyed a lot of success over the past couple of years since the team was formed by legendary American team owner Roger Penske and iconic Aussie racer Dick Johnson. But a big endurance victory has eluded the team so far.

"It would be massive to win," McLaughlin said. "Obviously the Sandown 500 itself would be massive but winning something like winning Bathurst or something like that would be another jewel in that crown that Roger has already got.

"It would be very cool to add to that but also for Dick as well and add to his resume as well.

"To have the points to add to your championship tally would be massive as well."


McLaughlin will be partnered by Alex Premat in car #17 again this year while Kiwi Le Mans winner Earl Bamber will partner Van Gisbergen in the Red Bull Holden.

McLaughlin admits the championship situation means he will pay a little more attention to where the #97 Holden is.

"They do get treated like any other pairing and try to beat them as well but at the end of the day we have got to have them in the back of our mind. If we are fourth and fifth all we have to do is beat them so we will work a strategy to do that."

Pairing to beat: Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell
Dark horse: Rick Kelly and Garry Jacobson
Keep an eye on: The battle between Van Gisbergen/Bamber and McLaughlin/Premat
Under pressure: Tickford Racing as a whole. They desperately need to be relevant in the enduros