Scott McLaughlin has opened up on his “bucket list” IndyCar test, with the Supercars champion discussing the challenges of adapting to the downforce and speed of an open wheel machine.
The Shell V-Power Racing star took to Sebring International Speedway in Florida on Monday to undertake a special rookie evaluation test in a Team Penske IndyCar.
From qualifying runs to long race runs, McLaughlin was in the hot seat all day as the powerhouse team sent out over half its crew and its legion of superstar IndyCar drivers to keep an eye on the action.
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Champ’s day out: McLaughlin takes major step towards American ‘dream’
Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden joined teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud at the venue to oversee McLaughlin’s test day.
McLaughlin completed 141 laps on the day and learned the ropes of the IndyCar package, from race weekend simulations through to pit exits.
Speaking after the test, McLaughlin expressed his delight in the opportunity.
“The car is a beast. It’s everything I dreamt of,” said the Kiwi.
“I’m so thankful to Roger [Penske, team owner], Tim [Cindric, team boss] and Team Penske to be able to come over here and run an IndyCar.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s been a big day.”
McLaughlin’s usual ride, his Shell V-Power Racing Ford Mustang Supercar, is more about grunt than aerodynamics, even after the aero parity storm which marred the 2019 season.
The performance of an IndyCar, however, is centred on downforce – and McLaughlin admitted it took a while to adapt to the speed and grip on offer.
“[I did] 141 laps, the neck is pretty sore. We held on and did a long run at the end, and I got a feel for everything,” he explained.
“Qualifying runs, race runs, long runs, fuel loads and pit exits so it was really cool.
“Trusting the grip underneath me was probably the biggest thing I learned. It’s very hard to come out of the habits I’ve gained driving Supercars over the last 10 years.
“To jump into this, where there is hundreds of pounds of downforce is really cool and so exciting.
“I’m really proud, and it’s a big tick on my bucket list for sure.”
McLaughlin ran the test with the aeroscreen package on the car, which will be implemented from 2020 onwards in a bid to increase safety for drivers.
The 26-year-old said he was “oblivious” to it but admitted “as it got darker I started noticing reflections off the dash”, providing key insight into IndyCar’s new-for-2020 innovation.
However, McLaughlin’s larger concerns were having the IndyCar stars and legends in Rick Mears on site for the day – but their presence encouraged him to push the limits and make a standout impression ahead of a possible Stateside foray beyond the 2020 Supercars season.
“I can’t believe it that they were all here, including the legend Rick Mears. Just to bounce ideas off all of them,” he said.
“Simon was a big help at the end, in regards to telling me how to give my feedback as I wanted to go in a certain direction.
“I owe a lot to those guys for coming, they could easily have stayed at home, but it shows how good Team Penske is not only here, but in Australia as well.
“I’m very proud to have been chosen to do something like this, to have the trust from the team to bring a whole crew and a truck all the way down to Florida to give me a go.
“It’s a massive bucket list, and hopefully there is more later on.”