Walkinshaw Andretti United driver Scott Pye is celebrating his maiden Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race win this evening, dedicating the emotional victory to his lost father.
After inheriting the lead in in the opening laps when then front-runner Scott McLaughlin ran off the road at Turn 1, Pye came under pressure from Jamie Whincup, but remained out front after the first round of pit stops as the skies became darker.
The South Australian then took a gamble when the rain started to fall with seven laps remaining in Saturday’s Race 4, staying out on slick tyres as all but 11 other cars pitted for wets.
Pye kept his composure in the treacherous and gruelling conditions, retaining a comfortable gap to Whincup who was tucked up behind him in the low light and wet environment, also on slicks.
A late race error though saw Whincup close right up on the rear bumper of the Holden driver with two laps to go, however it proved fruitless for the Red Bull’s Whincup, with Pye taking the chequered flag by less than a second.
“Has to be (the best drive of my career) it’s my first win,” said Pye.
“Just speechless, really special moment and thanks to all the boys – mega job. That was a tough race and to have someone like Jamie behind you is a long way.
“It means the world, obviously we all have families we all work hard for this and it felt like it’s taken a long time, but my dad’s up there (in heaven) he could have helped a bit more with the weather, but yeah, obviously I miss him and this is for him today.
“Obviously all these boys as well, I can’t thank them enough for giving me a car good enough to get the win.
“I was screaming at Stary (engineer) to help me and let me know what everyone is doing, I was just trying to hang in there, we had a good gap and I just wanted to push out of the pit lane and try pull away so we could manager the tyres.
“Car was mega in the dry, in the wet I think we fried the rear tyres a little bit, but yeah, holding (off) Jamie there was good fun – I’m going to reflect on it.
“At the time I was hating every moment of it, I wish the race was shortened at that point. But no, mega race and I just couldn’t be happier right now.”
The win was executed under the watchful eye of co-owner and McLaren Formula 1 boss Zak Brown and his fellow United Autosport partners, with Brown hailing it one of the best drives he’s ever seen.
“I’m happy to be here, I’m going to come more often,” said Brown.
“What a drive (from Scott Pye), what a drive, great team effort, James did unbelievable so great race at the Australian Grand Prix. I think it’s as good a drive as I’ve ever seen – he (Pye) earned it. That was awesome.”
McLaughlin regrets stopping for wets
The Shell V-Power Racing driver brought his Ford Falcon FG X in on Lap 19 with most of the field to bolt on wet tyres after the heavens opened, but believes he could have kept going on slicks.
Radio issues also hampered the New Zealander, adding mis-communication into the mix.
“It was tough that one because I lost radio as well, so when it started raining, the radio was very intermittent and I couldn’t hear whether they said come in or not,” explained McLaughlin.
“Probably regret (it), probably should have stayed out a little longer and just tested myself because I actually called it and said it was dry enough for me to keep going and some people obviously did.
“Congratulations to Scotty (Pye) on his first win, thats always cool – we’ve got to just come back stronger, our car wasn’t amazing especially in the traffic so we’ll see how we go tomorrow.”
McLaughlin crossed the line 15th, three places behind team mate Fabian Coulthard in 12th.
Tander slams scheduling
For Gary Rogers Motorsport’s Garth Tander, things didn’t exactly go to plan. An incident in the pits coupled with difficulty seeing in the low light and rainy conditions made for a tough end to the race.
When he pitted for wets on Lap 19, Tander slid on the concrete apron and hit a number of his mechanics, though they only suffered minor injuries, but Tander lost enough time to demote him to 26th.
“You couldn’t (see where you were going), that’s the thing,” said Tander.
“It was way too dark, the race was way too late and that’s ridiculous, it was really bad. Coupled with the rain in the end there, you couldn’t see which were the wet bits, which weren’t the wet bits.
“Same for everyone, yeah scheduling probably needs a bit of a look at.
“Yeah, just caught me out (the slippery pit lane) and understeered and cleaned up Benny my number one mechanic. He’s okay, he’s just up at the medical centre so I want to go get changed and see him straight away.”
The final race of the Coates Hire Melbourne 400 is scheduled for 1345 local time/AEDT Sunday.