Being quicker off the mark and more mature are the two factors which have driven Ford star Scott McLaughlin into the biggest championship lead of his Supercars career.
The DJR Team Penske ace heads into this weekend’s Townsville 400 with a161-point lead over Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s Shane Van Gisbergen.
It’s a stirring first half of the year by McLaughlin after his devastating near-miss in the 2017 championship.
The New Zealander says he’s applied the lessons from his heartbreaking season finale at Newcastle, where a last race penalty enabled Jamie Whincup to snatch a seventh Supercars crown.
McLaughlin has won six of 16 races so far this year, the exact same number as he had at the same point last year, but he’s halved the number of races where he’s finished 10th or worse from four to two.
“We’ve just been trying to be consistent and not try to worry about anyone else, do our own race,” McLaughlin told AAP.
“Also make the best out of bad situations. If you look at Darwin Sunday, it could’ve been really bad but we brought it home and beat Shane, who is our closest rival.”
McLaughlin set a record 16 pole positions in 2017 but too often failed to turn that front-row starting position into race wins.
He says being faster off the line in races was a big focus of his preparations coming into 2018.
“That’s definitely helped my transition from pole positions to wins,” he said.
“This year my starts are a lot better, that makes things a lot easier.
“I’ve got to keep focused, keep trying to extend the lead. The further we are out in front, the better.”
McLaughlin won for the first time at Townsville in 2017, a track that has previously been dominated by Whincup who has won nine races in north Queensland.
After several rounds of specialist race track competition at Phillip Island, Perth, Winton and Darwin, McLaughlin says he’s eager to get back into street circuit action on the 2.86km Reid Park circuit.
“You’ve always got that risk factor of a street circuit where you’re just surrounded by concrete walls and that’s what makes it so good and why they’re so popular with the drivers,” he said.
“We all really enjoy that sort of stuff.”
McLAUGHLIN’S MAGIC 2018
* Leads championship by 161 points, the biggest lead he’s held in his Supercars career
* Has won six of 16 races in 2018 including five of the past eight
* Has claimed seven pole positions so far in 2018
* Only twice so far this year has failed to finish inside the top 10
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