McLaughlin sets ominous early pace
A FORD flogging looms for Holden after Scott McLaughlin and the Mustang combined to become the fastest combination in Bathurst history.
In a scorching start that has the Commodore running scared, McLaughlin smashed the Bathurst lap record.
Flying in his Ford as the Mustang took on Mount Panorama for the first time since 1986, the DJR Team Penske driver clocked 2.03.77 to record the fastest V8 lap ever.
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"That car was pretty hooked up,'' McLaughlin said after breaking his own lap record of 2.03.83 set in 2017.
"Yeah, that was pretty special.''
Fully focused on breaking through to win his first Bathurst crown, McLaughlin showed little emotion after completing Mount Panorama's fastest-ever Supercars lap.
"It was weird because it is Thursday,'' McLaughlin said.
"The euphoria is completely different to when I did it last time. We rolled it out and it was a good car and we just tinkered with it. I am sure it will stay fast if it stays dry.''
Beating the record he set in the top-10 shootout in 2017, McLaughlin recounted his white-knuckle ride in his Mustang.
"I was just hanging on,'' McLaughlin said.
"I knew it was going to be quick after our second last run and I was really just holding on. I was so committed and I was literally just wheeling it. It was a lot of fun. Hopefully the rain holds off for qualifying and everyone can have a fair crack in the dry.''
Having won 20 races out of 24 this year, the Mustang confirmed Holden's worst fears with the record-breaking lap.
Predicting an alleged aerodynamic advantage could deliver Ford a Mount Panorama win, several Holden teams have complained that the Mustang is unfairly fast.
Supercars have already attempting to slow the Mustang down this year by forcing go-slow changes on their Fords.
Dubbed the Bathurst dream team, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes confirmed themselves as Holden's best shot when they combined to claim the second fastest practice lap.
Whincup finished less than two-tenths of a second behind the record breaking McLaughlin.
"It is nice in the aero era to get a 2.03,'' Whincup said.
"The car is good and we stuck to our plan. We executed well. I just do what the car can do.''
Holden hero Lowndes said track condition had contributed to McLaughlin's record breaking time.
"It is obviously a very quick track,'' Lowndes said.
"We saw that earlier in the day when the Porches were running around three seconds quicker than what they were last year. The circuit has obviously evolved but the cars have, too. We just stuck to our program and it is fantastic that the car is working well this early in the week.''
Cameron Waters also fired for Ford with the Tickford Racing driver racing his Mustang to the third fastest practice time.
"It was pretty good,'' Waters said.
"Doing a 2.03 certainly woke me up. I didn't put a good tyre on till the end so I am happy.''