Ford star Scott McLaughlin is back on top of the knife-edge Supercars title race after a day to forget on the Gold Coast for rival Shane Van Gisbergen.
McLaughin’s fifth-place finish in Saturday’s 300km race on the streets of Surfers Paradise has taken him from trailing Van Gisbergen by 19 points to holding a slender 14-point lead in the battle for the 2018 championship.
Ford’s Chaz Mostert combined with co-driver James Moffat for his first win since the corresponding race last year, while Bathurst champion Craig Lowndes secured a second-place finish despite starting the race from a lowly 21st after being penalised five grid positions for an incident in qualifying.
Holden veteran James Courtney put his tough 2018 behind him to come home third in his 400th Supercars start.
But Van Gisbergen could only limp home 10th after receiving a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release in the pits while co-driver Earl Bamber was behind the wheel on lap 23.
McLaughlin, who earlier in the day secured a 12th pole position of the season after Van Gisbergen was disqualified from the top-10 shootout for kerb-hopping, believed an early collision involving his co-driver Alex Premat and Jamie Whincup’s partner Paul Dumbrell, as the pair battled for the lead, had damaged his Ford.
From there it was a matter of simply getting the car over the line, leaving him to rue a missed opportunity to maximise the damage as Van Gisbergen toiled his way through the field.
“The start could have been a lot worse – pretty 50-50 move but it is what it is – from then on, we were a bit damaged; we just did the best we could,” McLaughlin told AAP.
“We knew we were beating our objective and, at the end of the day, it was just trying to work around with our car and bring it home.”
A disappointed Van Gisbergen put his hand up for the shootout-lap error before labelling the pitlane mistake a “kerfuffle”.
“The shootout mistake today wasn’t very good – it was a mistake on my part,” Van Gisbergen said.
“Then we had a kerfuffle in the pits and we mismanaged that, which happens very rarely in this team, so we got a drive-through.
“The championship battle is not over. We will look where we are after tomorrow, analyse everything and approach the next two rounds how we need to.”
Dumbrell, who came into the pitlane on lap 23 leading the race, also copped a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release where he collided with Mostert’s co-driver James Moffat.
That left defending champion Whincup also battling his way through the field, eventually limping home 14th.
The Gold Coast 600 wraps up on Sunday with another 300km race.