Shane van Gisbergen clocked the fastest time in Friday practice for the Gold Coast 600.Supercars star Scott McLaughlin’s near miss in last year’s title race has given him the mental tools to play it cool in 2018.
That’s the belief of the Ford driver as he heads into the Gold Coast 600 trailing Shane Van Gisbergen by a mere 19 points in the championship standings.
The two rivals laid down an early marker for the weekend in Friday’s final practice session with Van Gisbergen pipping McLaughlin to the day’s fastest lap.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team ace locked a one minute and 10.0763 seconds fastest lap on the Surfers Paradise street circuit after the checkered flag had been waved.
That time was enough to sneak past McLaughlin, who had been leading the way with a 1:10.2218 but had to settle for second fastest on the day.
But after notching his first Bathurst 1000 podium finish earlier this month, McLaughlin is in good spirits as he returns to the scene of one of his best career victories.
In last year’s Sunday race on the streets of Surfers Paradise, McLaughlin and co-driver Alex Premat came from a mid-pack start of 13th to secure victory.
That win didn’t end in championship glory however after McLaughlin fell just short to Jamie Whincup in the season climax at Newcastle.
The experience gained from that title battle has stood McLaughlin in good stead however as he now locks horns with his fellow New Zealander.
“We’re right there, I’m excited, I’ve got a year under my belt from battling the championship and I understand now there’s a long way to go,” the DJR Team Penske racer told AAP.
“This time last year I was ‘oh my god, it feels so close’ but it’s actually not. It’s nice to come in here a bit more mature and I’m hoping that helps me later on.”
McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard (1:10.4199) was third-quickest on Friday with Whincup right behind him (01:10.4788).
Bathurst champion Craig Lowndes (01:10.6396) also showed good pace to post the fifth-fastest lap.
The Gold Coast 600 continues on Saturday with qualifying and a Top 10 shootout before the race gets underway at 2.25pm AEST.