Scott McLaughlin and Craig Lowndes. Picture: Supplied
Scott McLaughlin and Craig Lowndes. Picture: Supplied

McLaughlin eyes jewel in crown after record year

DJR Team Penske team principal Ryan Story has labelled Scott McLaughlin as a "once in a generation talent" and says the Ford star is primed for his Bathurst assault this weekend.

Aiming to put the crowning glory on a commanding Supercars season, McLaughlin will be in pursuit of a maiden Bathurst 1000 victory when the endurance season roars to life at the famed Mount Panorama this weekend.

McLaughlin has dominated this year's Supercars championship, claiming a record breaking 17th victory in Auckland last round. He has won all but seven of the 24 races so far in his Mustang.

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Story said McLaughlin's performances this year had been "extraordinary" and the championship leader was in the best position possible to attack the biggest race of the year.

"I think it is safe to say he truly is a once in a generation talent," Story said.

"When you go back through the history of the touring car championship and Supercars, we see that. We see the likes of Jamie Whincup, Mark Skaife, Craig Lowndes, Glenn Seton, John Bowe, they were standout drivers in their eras and I think Scott is deserving to be among those ranks.

"What he has managed to achieve this year with 17 wins, beating Lowndes' record (for wins in a single year) from 1996 is nothing short of extraordinary.

Scott McLaughlin hits Bathurst in top form. Picture: Getty Images
Scott McLaughlin hits Bathurst in top form. Picture: Getty Images

"And behind every great driver is a good car and a good team and we have worked really hard to build up over the last five years and he is certainly deserving of the opportunity that he has now and he is certainly making the most of it.

"He is focused and he is relaxed."

McLaughlin takes a huge 598-point lead into Bathurst, which Story said would allow the team to launch everything at its bid for Bathurst glory without compromising his position in the championship.

"What does change the paradigm for us a little bit is that Scott's got such a comprehensive lead in the championship so we can go there and solely think about that race," Story said.

"It doesn't add pressure to the situation, it means for one weekend and one weekend only we can think about the race at hand and not think about the bigger picture.

McLaughlin’s Mustang has set the pace all season.
McLaughlin’s Mustang has set the pace all season.

"We are very fortunate to be in that position. That's really our attitude going into this thing … if there is an opportunity to win the thing, we won't be leaving anything on the table."

Story conceded the team's chief Commodore rivals had made ground in the last round in New Zealand after they were granted fresh aerodynamic changes.

He added the strength of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team pairings - Jamie Whincup/Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander - would be dangerous.

"We don't take for granted how competitive the rest of the field is," Story said.

"Triple Eight have got a great driver line-up across both of their cars and they are going to be super competitive and to win the race we are going to have to beat them and that is not going to come easy.

"But we have got two very strong cars and two very strong driver line-ups."