THE three McLaren contenders for the 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour have completed a strong pre-event test today at Queensland Raceway.
Car owner Tony Walls, Jaxon Evans and Warren Luff shared the Objective Racing 650S, while Scott McLaughlin and Fraser Ross shared the Opti-Coat YNA Autosport entry; McLaughlin getting his first laps of a fully-blown GT3 car in the process.
Craig Lowndes had sole command of the currently all-white YNA Autosport Professional class entry, with Shane van Gisbergen busy with the launch of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodores in Sydney.
Queensland-based team McElrea Racing prepares the Objective Racing and YNA Autosport McLaren entries.
“All of the cars ran faultlessly,” said team boss Andy McAlrea.
“All the drivers were on the pace and the cars were great. We had a busy program bedding in new components for Bathurst and getting drivers comfortable with things like pit stops and the cars.
“We had Opti-Coat out here filming for their Bathurst campaign and that car looks great. The other car will have a livery announcement down the road closer to the event.”
McLaughlin quickly acclimatized to the McLaren, having only driven Porsche GT3 Cup cars prior to today’s experience in the faster outright entry.
While the team did not report lap times, they did confirm that all drivers ‘lapped competitively’.
“It was good. Obviously just getting used to everything, it was the first time I’ve driven a car with traction control, ABS and that sort of stuff,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.
“It was finding my preferences in that. I got to a point where I was pretty comfortable, still plenty to work on.
“The braking’s pretty phenomenal. I don’t think I locked a brake all day, that’s something we talk about a lot in Supercars, it was pretty weird to go into a corner and push the brake as hard as you can. For me, it was just trying to work out how much I could push the brake without using all the ABS and that sort of stuff and hurting my braking.
“It’s going to be a balance, but Bathurst is a completely different beast so I’m looking forward to getting there.”
Team boss McElrea said the day was a key component to their build-up towards Bathurst this year.
“It was fairly crucial. The cars had a lot of new parts in preparation for the race so it’s important to have those miles beforehand to make sure everything is good.
“We’re very happy with the cars and drivers from today and it has been a fantastically boring day, which is exactly what you want from a test day!”
McLaughlin’s debut in the McLaren is something of a full-circle journey for the Kiwi driver, having raced with McElrea Racing as a teenager when he contested the 2010 Mini challenge with the team – the same year he made his Super2 series debut.
“Scott drove the Mini for us in 2010 so it’s like going full circle; it’s cool for him and us as well and a bit of a reunion which is neat.
“He knows most of the boys from then so he’s slid back in.
“Craig has fitted in seamlessly and is the consummate professional as you’d expect – you’d think he’s been with us for years.”
McElrea said there was a degree of humor around having the two Supercar stars under the same banner, given their recent history.
“It’s very exciting for us to have them both, but it’s also quite humorous given the shenanigans in Newcastle.
“They get on brilliantly so there’s no issues. Everyone is having a bit of a laugh about them being in the same team.”
The power-packed YNA Autosport McLaren squad will include international drivers Come Ledogar, Andrew Watson and Alexander West when they reunite at Bathurst, while Tim Slade will join Walls, Evans and Luff in the Objective Racing entry.
PHOTOS: Matthew Paul Photography
Tickets remain available for the event, with race day General Admission tickets priced from just $46, including free access to the paddock area.