Virgin Australia Supercars Championship leader Scott McLaughlin says qualifying position is absolutely vital at the Beaurepaires Supercars Melbourne 400.
McLaughlin won three of four races at the iconic Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit last year but was still beaten to the Larry Perkins Trophy by Chaz Mostert.
The Shell V-Power Racing Team driver was undeterred and went on to win his second successive title in 2019, and he started his title defence by being the best-performed driver at last month’s Superloop Adelaide 500.
Speaking ahead of the Supercars hitting the track for the first of two qualifying sessions on Thursday, McLaughlin told RSN 927: “I enjoy it [Melbourne]. I love the track.
“I love the format now that we’re racing for points.
“Qualifying is the most important here. You’ve basically got one lap over four qualifying sessions to get it done so, yeah, it’s a tough gig … qualifying here is important because it’s hard to pass.
“If we can qualify at the front, we will be okay.”
Qualifying sessions are limited to just 10 minutes for each of the four Beaurepaires Supercars Melbourne 400 races and the length of the 5.3km circuit means one mistake in qualifying can be very costly.
McLaughlin made the most of a botched fuel stop from Red Bull Racing Team’s Shane van Gisbergen to win Race 2 of the Superloop Adelaide 500 and the former said he could improve significantly in Melbourne.
“[Adelaide] wasn’t our best round but [it] wasn’t our worst,” he said.
“Obviously we won the [second] race … we weren’t the fastest … we want to get that way.
“Certainly we were the most consistent and I think this year is, from the weekend just gone - it’s going to be all about details and consistency.
“That’s certainly what we did and we’ve just got to continue doing that.
“I think it’s going to be very much like the 2018 championship where it just comes right down to the wire [and] who is the most consistent.”
McLaughlin added that he was trying to take being the hunted again in 2020 “in my stride” and said that he did not feel under the pump.
“I’m not really feeling the pressure - if anything I put more [pressure] on myself than anyone else does,” he said.
“It’s a funny feeling but I’d rather be in this position than chasing anyone.”
The Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2020 runs in Melbourne until Sunday. Book online and save up to $10* on AusGP Park Pass tickets before prices increase at the gate.