Supercars legend Mark Skaife says Scott McLaughlin has every right to celebrate his championship win despite the fact it might have been “tainted” by controversy.
Skaife says he feels sorry for the back-to-back champion McLaughlin, but hopes the Mustang driver has been able to properly toast his success.
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McLaughlin's garage was almost funereal after last week’s Sandown 500, despite the DJR Team Penske star's ninth-placed finish securing back-to-back titles.
Stewards announced on the morning of the 500km endurance race that McLaughlin's Ford Mustang had run an engine during qualifying and the top 10 shootout at Bathurst which "exceeded the maximum permitted valve lift" under regulations.
McLaughlin and co-driver Alex Premat were sent to the back of the grid for the breach which also resulted in the New Zealander's pole position and lap record at Mount Panorama being wiped.
The pair kept their win in the 1000km endurance race, however, after the engine was changed following the shootout.
DJR Team Penske were also fined $30,000 for the breach.
Skaife says he's sure there was no intent on the part of McLaughlin's team to breach the rules and insists the engine regulations in Supercars are part of what makes it so great.
"We’ve got to a point where engine performance car to car, manufacturer to manufacturer, is so close it’s unbelievable," Skaife told Fox Sports’ The Loud Pedal podcast.
“All the podium engines were checked, so cars 97, 888, 22, 12 and 17 by two [engines for qualifying and race] … all checked, and none of them were outside the window of performance.
“In terms of their engine output, no one breached the rule. When 17’s qualifying engine was then stripped [after Gold Coast] then they found the anomaly.
“The biggest single point is, I’m sure the intention was for that not to be a breach.”
However, Skaife did go on to admit that McLaughlin's controversial Bathurst 1000 win will probably always be remembered for the wrong reasons.
“I feel sorry for Scotty in some ways, because [the Bathurst win] sort of has this tainted feel to it,” he said.
“The thing with Fabian was obviously one issue … although those issues aren’t linked, people easily say, ‘what happened there, what happened there?’
“They’re not even in the same postcode, but they’re still joined up at some point when some people start to consider their performance.”
The Bathurst penalties have continued to be a source of frustration for rival teams, drivers and fans, with many criticising them for being too soft.
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Earlier this week, Triple Eight boss Roland Dane said tougher penalties needed to be introduced as a true deterrent for the larger teams.
"To be honest, any penalty that fines that team is a waste of time," he said.
"They've got more money than the rest of us put together and the only thing that I think they'll understand in that team is points and exclusions.
"But it is what it is. We have an independent judiciary and it's up to them, not up to me."
"It's very easy to draw a conclusion quickly, but my initial reaction is I don't think the penalty's hard enough," Brad Jones told Fox Sports.
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"If the bits aren't right, the bits aren't right, so therefore the penalty needs to be substantial.
"They've checked the race engine and it was fine so when you put it together with the other thing that happened, it's not good."
Tickford boss Tim Edwards said: "How can they still be allowed to be classified as a starter even though he started from pole, and technically he shouldn't have probably started from pole? It's a weird scenario."
Skaife said he had been in contact with McLaughlin and says the Kiwi deserves to celebrate a season that contained a record 18 wins.
“It’s a situation around a teams’ issue, not Scott’s, and for Scott to balance this is really important.
“One of the fundamentals about our sport is that you take the highs and the lows, and you enjoy them as a consequence as Scott’s been operating this year, no one can deny how well he’s driven.