A RETURN to the Supercars Championship remains on his radar “one day”, but Scott McLaughlin says the tumultuous 2019 season made him “fall out of love” with the category.
Now driving for Team Penske in the IndyCar Series, McLaughlin reflected on his time racing for DJR Team Penske in Supercars on popular American podcast Dinner With Racers.
After narrowly missing the title in his maiden season with the team in 2017, McLaughlin claimed a hat-trick of championships in 2018-2020 before moving to the United States this year.
McLaughlin’s first title win came amid renewed arguments over parity as the venerable Ford Falcon FG X battled Triple Eight’s new Holden Commodore ZB.
“We just missed out on the championship in 2017, and the year after Triple Eight brought out the ZB,” he told Dinner With Racers.
“They had carbon fibre panels on everything where before we only had steel panels … the way it was built was crazy. And nothing was done.
“The only thing that got changed that year, the Ford and the Nissan were allowed to put carbon fibre roofs, boots and hoods on the car, just for (centre of gravity) and all that stuff, which was good.
“The (ZB) was still ridiculous, but nothing was done the whole year, but we got on with it as a team, we worked our butts off and eventually we won the championship in 2018.
“The only reason we won it is that Triple Eight kept making mistakes.
“We didn’t have the pace … we didn’t win that by performance; we won by teamwork and we won that by (making) no mistakes, and they stepped on their ‘things’.”
McLaughlin romped to his second title in 2019 armed with a brand-new Ford Mustang, a car that further ramped up arguments over parity.
“We came out with this car and at the first race, smoked everyone. To be honest, it was unbelievable,” he said.
“Then it started: ‘The car’s too good.’ These dudes that were saying there was nothing wrong with the ZB parity (were now) saying the Mustang’s too good.
“What I always come back to (is that) they didn’t know what they had; in 2018, they had a car that should’ve done exactly what we did in 2019.
“They should’ve smoked us and they didn’t because they kept making mistakes. Then we came out and showed them what we can do with equal equipment.”
Continuing complaints about parity led to Supercars technical chiefs making adjustments to the Mustang and Commodore as the year went on.
They included adding weight to adjust centre of gravity, trimming the rear wing endplates on the Mustang and the Commodore receiving a Gurney flap on its rear wing and an extended front undertray.
“That was when I sort of started to really fall out of love with Supercars, with how it was handled,” McLaughlin said.
“To be honest, I feel like the whole Penske organisation was the same deal. It was frustrating.
“Bathurst, all that stuff happened (McLaughlin’s victory was followed by sanctions against DJRTP for breaching FIA Obligation of Fairness and technical regulations during the race weekend) … it was a constant barrage of everything.
“I just got to the point where I was, genuinely, at the end of the 2019 season I was done with the sport.”
Feeling refreshed after getting married in America during the off-season, McLaughlin completed the championship treble in what proved his swansong season in the category.
“I felt like the 2020 season was the closest in terms of a genuine race season, but the problem is there were so many burnt bridges going back to the 2019 season,” he said.
“I enjoyed working with my team; those two years, working with my team and stuff was amazing. They’re friends for life. I’m still in a group text with the guys on my car a year later.
“One day I’ll go back and race Supercars eventually and do some stuff, but it was really hard to … I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and I didn’t want to (feel) like that (about the category).
“Going back to a lot of the drivers, there was a lot of backstabbing … a lot of people say stuff behind your back or what your team is doing … it really frustrated me.
“It was more like getting stabbed in the back the whole time.”
McLaughlin had been scheduled to take part in this year’s Repco Bathurst 1000 as a co-driver but continuing uncertainty over international travel and quarantine arrangements sidelined him from his expected role alongside Anton De Pasquale at Dick Johnson Racing.