That puts him outside the top 20 again but still, remarkably, all’s not lost. Newcastle is a city circuit with concrete walls and not only are mistakes punished hard, it usually takes a safety car to clear them.
McLaughlin works his way to 16th before one safety car comes spell compresses the field and, by the time a second safety car stint is needed (they’re better drivers than I’m making this crash-fest sound), McLaughlin is in 13th.
Whincup is leading but that doesn’t matter because, two passes after the restart later, McLaughlin is in the 11th place he needs to bag the title.
The only potential problem for McLaughlin is that Whincup’s veteran team-mate Craig Lowndes is right behind him in 12th, on the fresh tyres he grabbed during the last safety car spell, with the specific instruction to chase McLaughlin down. But if Scotty can keep Lowndes back there, he takes his first championship.
It’s the penultimate lap. McLaughlin gets a little loose into turn one, Lowndes gets much better traction off the bend and has a run on McLaughlin down the next straight. Knowing the danger, Scotty, in car number 17 gives Lowndes a small squeeze, then even more of one, which edges Lowndes over, over, and as the track narrows – bang! – Lowndes is into the concrete wall.