I preface this by saying that Scott drove incredibly this year and I have no doubt with DJR Team Penske backing next year he will be the man to beat for the 2018 Championship. Whether he should or should not have been in the position he found himself in on the last lap of the Championship decider is a moot point. Scott drove a fantastic last portion of the race to find himself in a position to be leading the championship.
One moment, running wide into Turn 1 placed even more pressure on McLaughlin, desperate to protect his position, on the cusp of losing his Championship to Whincup from a fast charging Craig Lowndes. Craig was the fastest on the track with fresher tyres, Craig had the run out of Turn 1 and quickly had an overlap on McLaughlin, in desperation McLaughlin moved across to protect his line, with his mirror folded in and damaged matching the rest of the bruised car McLaughlin was relying on instinct. *Smack* as Lowndes and McLaughlin touch, then as they straighten up again Lowndes straightens as they approach the wall allowing for the jutted out portion of the wall. McLaughlin moves across that little bit further and Lowndes tears the front left wheel off, losing brakes and eventually finishing in the tyre bundle backwards. An accident that saw Lowndes finish the Championship in 6th and would see about 30 seconds later Scott having the Title torn from his hands.
The stewards were quick in handing down their decision, in my eyes it was a clear cut decision, one of the easiest for them to make. However there has rarely been this much division outside of incidents like Lowndes turning around Winterbottom at Bathurst.
Reading all of the comments from Speedcafe and Supercars leaves me perplexed about the complete lack of understanding of the rules. Supercars have provided access to all of the Rules and Regulations that are relied upon, and provide Summaries of all of the decisions.
Why did they make the decision during the race?
There could be some speculation on this, the decision came down quickly however any decision that is clear cut will be made during the race where a penalty is appropriate, it allows the driver the opportunity to drive back from the penalty. Given how late in the race this was though, that isn’t possible. The decision may have been made quickly so there was not conjecture regarding who the champion is and so the decision could not be appealed.
Maybe it would have made for some on going drama but this at least gets it out of the way. B5 of the Supercars Operation Manual 2017 deals with appeals.
Why was McLaughlin in the wrong?
I think McLaughlin will resign himself to the decision, he won’t like the decision but deep down I think he knows the penalty is correct.
“Pretty gutted. I was just pushing hard, obviously,” said McLaughlin.
“At the end of the day I wasn’t going to die wondering.
“I just gave it my all and obviously got the pass into Turn 11 there and then I’ve made a little mistake at Turn 1.
“I lost my left mirror so I didn’t know where Lowndes was and I saw in my rear-view he’d gone left, so I protected that line, I left a bit of room there.
“Then something massive happened because he bounced into me massively and just got caught up.
“I felt like I raced fair and to be taken away like that, I don’t agree with it.
“That’s their (the stewards’) decision but I felt I did everything in my power with what I had around me with regards to no left hand mirror.
“I felt like I left significant (room) it was tight, obviously, but I left a car width just in case he’s there. Then to get a thud made it look even worse than it did.
“Look, no driver in our position is going to agree with a penalty.
“It’d be nicer maybe if we could do a post-race investigation and look at points and stuff. But anyway, it is what it is.”
Schedule B2 deals with Driving Conduct. With the grounds for the decision the Steward refers to past decisions and Schedule B2. 3. Driving for guidance on a decision. The rules that apply here are below;
3.1 Drivers must observe the provisions of this Code of Driving Conduct relating to driving behaviour on Circuits at all times.
3.5 Overtaking, according to the circumstances, may be carried out on either the right or the left.
3.7 Any Driver defending his position on a straight, and before any braking area, may use the full width of the Track during his first move, provided no portion of the Car attempting to pass is alongside their Car. Whilst defending in this way the Driver may not leave the Track without justifiable reason.
3.8 Manoeuvres liable to hinder other Drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a Car beyond the edge of the Track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted.
Breaking the rules down
Rule 3.5 allowed Craig to make the pass on the left, he had the run on McLaughlin and had an overlap (an overlap does not mean past the B-Pillar it is simply any part of the car overlapping, the B-Pillar rule only applies at the apex of a corner during an overtake).
Rule 3.7 saw that Lowndes had an overlap, realistically Lowndes was probably more lenient than he needed to be, McLaughlin could have turned himself around on the front of Lowndes potentially putting both drivers out. Lowndes continued to move across to the edge of the track with McLaughlin, at this stage McLaughlin had to allow a car width. Lowndes did not have to back out, he was there and any Racing Driver at that level would hold that position.
Rule 3.8 given that the track is a concrete canyon the edge of the track is the concrete barrier, McLaughlin whether intentional or not moved Lowndes too far across resulting in contact with the barrier.
It is really clear cut, there should be no contention regarding this decision, outside of maybe believing it should have been dealt with after the race. Pro-Tip review 8. Incidents and Infringements During the Race as to how they could make the decision during the race.
If you want to whinge and complain about the Pit-lane infringement then go for it. Otherwise McLaughlin is the only one who cost himself a Championship. Unfortunately for the Tin-Foil wearing brigade this isn’t a controversy that holds any weight.
The Stewards Summary and other interesting stuff
On Lap 94, Car #17, Scott McLaughlin made contact with Car #888, Craig Lowndes, between Turns 1 and 2 causing Car #888 to collide with the wall and spin and collide with the tyre barrier at Turn 2. The Stewards imposed a Pit Lane Penalty on Car #17 for a breach of Schedule B2 Article 2.2 (Reckless Driving) which was not served with the result that a Pit Lane Penalty Time of twenty five (25) seconds was added to Car #17’s Race time.