IT may not be as old as the ‘what comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ question, but Scott McLaughlin now faces a dilemma others have pondered before him.
As current leader of the Supercars’ drivers’ championship – a title he has never previously won – McLaughlin heads into the Bathurst 1000 with pressure to protect his position.
But if he plays things too safe, not use the same attacking approach which got him to the lead, it could cost him an opportunity to win the Great Race.
So the question is – does he keep his same aggressive intent in pursuit of glory at Mount Panorama, or does he tone things down a little to ensure he does not fall victim to the circuit?
For McLaughlin the answer is one almost all before him in the same position have arrived at.
“I feel like my best attitude is just attacking and trying to win races,” he said.
“If I do that, the championship is obviously going to be a lot easier to win if you're winning races.
“I don’t want to change anything from my approach, it’s just going to be a matter of putting it all together.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a point to prove, I just want to go out there and win at the end of the day. I will take every race as it comes. Whatever happens, happens. I’ll have a go.”
Having a go is certainly an approach the Kiwi native had adopted so far in his four years in the series.
Last year McLaughlin registered his best result in the drivers’ championship thus far when placing third in his Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvo.
This year McLaughlin switched to a DJR Team Penske Falcon and the good results have continued to come.
He won both races at Perth, picked up another win at Winton and again claimed the chequered flag in Darwin.
He went on to win race 13 at Townsville – an effort which moved him to the top of the drivers’ championship.
Since then McLaughlin has posted another win at Ipswich and notched up three second placings to ensure he remained in the number one spot.
The most recent of those runner-up results came in the Sandown 500 last month, the effort giving him an 84-point lead over Jamie Whincup.
It’s a run of results that McLaughlin is proud of, but with 300 points on offer to the winner of the Bathurst 1000, a lot could change at Mount Panorama.
There is a lot that can go wrong in 161 laps, but McLaughlin is not fazed by the challenge.
“You just have to take every race as it comes. At the end of the day it is longer and there’s more strategy involved and what not, but we have got car pace which is exactly what you need,” the man who has qualified fastest 13 times already this season said.
“If we can turn that car pace into results, obviously that would be ideal.”
Car pace at Bathurst has not been an issue for McLaughlin since becoming a full-time driver.
He has made the top 10 shootout each year, qualifying eighth in 2013, third in 2014, while the last two years McLaughlin has started the Great Race from position two.
It has been translating his strong qualifying positions into success in the race itself which has proven more difficult.
I feel like my best attitude is just attacking and trying to win races. If I do that, the championship is obviously going to be a lot easier to win.- Scott McLaughlin
Last year when in a position to get on the podium – and perhaps even win – McLaughlin was involved with an incident on lap 151 with Whincup and Garth Tander.
It caused damage to his Volvo and ultimately saw him finish in 15th.
That was not the only time he’s come close to a podium either.
Twelve months earlier McLaughlin placed fifth, having enjoyed time in the lead in the opening stages of the race.
In 2014 he led for 70 of the 161 laps, but a potential podium went begging after he clipped the wall trying to pass Shane van Gisbergen.
He had to settle for 17th position.
Still, those are experiences McLaughlin has learned from and only fuelled his desire to hoist the Peter Brock Trophy.
“For me Bathurst is like Christmas day, but you’re not guaranteed a present. My mum told me that and it’s literally stuck in my mind for a long time,” he said.
“I think I do get nervous, but I’m excited as well. Nervous for what’s ahead and wanting to win.
“Bathurst is held in very high regard by myself and I’d love to try and win that one day. If it’s not this year, then I hope we have a good result and get some good points at least.”
The man who will share McLaughlin’s seat at Mount Panorama this year is Alex Premat, the Frenchman who paired with him in 2015 and 2014.
Last year Premat raced the three Enduro Cup rounds with van Gisbergen in the Red Bull Commodore.
Together they dominated the four races – Gold Coast being split into a pair of races – with a win and three second placings.
It landed them the most dominant win in the short history of the Enduro Cup and means Premat brings plenty to the table for McLaughlin.
“He’s a great guy to have in my corner and he’s one of the best drivers in the world, so it’s really cool to have him,” McLaughlin said.
“Hopefully we can make something of it this year, but we always have fun and that’s the main thing, we’ve got a good head space going into these events.”
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