V8 champ’s fear: ‘I thought he wanted to belt me’
IT'S been widely hailed as a great act of sportsmanship, but when Scott McLaughlin saw Shane van Gisbergen running down the Gold Coast track towards his overturned Mustang he thought his fiercest Supercars rival had a completely different motive.
McLaughlin, who has sealed back-to-back drivers' championships, and fellow Kiwi van Gisbergen have been reunited for the first time since McLaughlin's spectacular Surfers Paradise crash.
On that occasion, van Gisbergen put their one-on-one title fight on hold. He pulled over, got out of his car and ran to help free McLaughlin from his Mustang, which had come to rest on its side.
McLaughlin thought van Gisbergen was rushing toward him to seek retribution as he tried to piece together what had just happened.
"I saw him the moment I was getting out of the car,'' McLaughlin said.
"I was just thinking, 'Jesus, that was a big one' and I saw Shane running. At that point I thought he must have been involved and that I had taken him out. That I had ruined his session as well.''
Though famous for their no-holds-barred racing on the track and trading barbs off it, McLaughlin might even be in danger of befriending his greatest opponent following the heroic act.
"We are just a couple of racers that just love racing,'' McLaughlin said.
"I think people are now realising that we don't actually hate each other. We just like beating each other.
"We actually have a good relationship off the track and I think that is because of a mutual respect for how hard we race each other on the track.
"Shane is the type of guy that won't give you any more than an inch and neither will I. There is a massive respect there."
Disregarding his own safety to charge across a live racetrack, van Gisbergen parked his car and rushed to aid McLaughlin after the Ford driver flipped his Mustang at more than 200km/h.
"The first thing Shane saw when he came around the corner was that no one was near my car,'' McLaughlin said.
"The marshals hadn't quite got there yet so he stopped. It was instinct. I thought he may have gotten caught up in it at first so I was just thankful he wasn't involved in the crash.''
DJR Team Penske driver McLaughlin said the act of sportsmanship had set a precedent for the sport.
"We are rivals on the track but we need to make sure we look after each other as much as we can,'' McLaughlin said.
"A big shunt like that sobers everyone up. As Shane has said, I think it is something you would do for anyone. Even your biggest rival.
"When the chips are down and someone is in trouble, you need to help.''
The war between the rivals will resume Friday when the pair go head-to-head for the teams' championship at the Newcastle 500.
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