But changes for 2019 could see his charmed run brought undone…
STORY: WILL DALE
IMAGES: SUPPLIED, AN1 IMAGES (DIRK KLYNSMITH)
SCOTT McLaughlin’s form at Phillip Island has secured him another place in the Supercars record books.
By the numbers, the reigning champion is the man to beat this weekend at the sweeping Victorian circuit when it comes to qualifying.
McLaughlin is on a current streak of six consecutive pole positions at the venue dating back to the Saturday race in 2016.
The streak has earnt him the record for the most number of pole positions in a row at a single circuit in Supercars history.
McLaughlin sweep of qualifying last year earnt moved him past the previous mark of five, jointly held by Marcos Ambrose (Queensland Raceway, 2001-05) and Peter Brock (Surfers Paradise, across the five championship rounds hosted between 1976-81).
All up, the DJR Team Penske pilot has eight poles at the venue dating back to the opening race of the 2014 event. In fact, he’s qualified off the front row just twice in that time, and only once outside the top 10.
However, one key change for 2019 could potentially bring his charmed pole run undone.
Three-part elimination qualifying replaces the traditional all-in timed sessions used at Phillip Island in recent years.
McLaughlin has taken pole just twice across the seven times the format has been used since it was introduced at Symmons Plains last year.
Also conspiring against him is that 2019 seems to be the year of streaks – good or bad – being broken.
It was McLaughlin who brought Shane van Gisbergen’s four-race stranglehold on poles and wins at the Adelaide 500 to a halt this year, while Jamie Whincup missed out on a podium finish in Tasmania for the first time since 2010, a weekend that also saw Mark Winterbottom end a pole position drought dating back to mid-2016.
One factor that won’t be in play is the Parc Ferme regulations trialled at Symmons Plains preventing wholesale setup changes between qualifying and racing.
No announcement has come from Supercars suggesting the trial will be extended to Phillip Island, meaning teams will have free rein to pursue maximum one-lap speed with a car setup tailored for qualifying.
McLaughlin’s race record is not quite as dominant as his qualifying form, but it’s no less imposing.
With six wins since 2014, McLaughlin is the most successful active Supercars driver at Phillip Island.