Scott McLaughlin was unable to overtake enough rivals to cap his rookie season race as a V8 Supercars driver with another podium finish, but still earned a pass mark from the motorsport team owner that has entrusted the 20-year-old Kiwi with a brand new challenge in 2014.
Twelve months after McLaughlin sealed the second-tier Dunlop Series on the Sydney 500 street layout at the city’s Olympic Games precinct, the Christchurch-born, Melbourne-based driver could not make the top three this weekend, though that couldn’t detract from his performances in a Holden Commodore that now parks up to make way for a Volvo S60.
McLaughlin will be the lead driver for new venture Volvo Polestar Racing – the amalgamation of Garry Rogers Motorsport and Volvo Car Australia next season – an assignment he seems equipped to handle following a breakthrough campaign.
“You’d call it a solid year. He won at the Grand Prix [the non-championship round in Melbourne], he won at Pukekohe and Ipswich,” Rogers told Fairfax Media.
“If I have to judge I’ve got to say to it’s been a really good year for us and certainly for Scotty.”
Rogers also nurtured a young Garth Tander – the 2007 champion – at a similar age but was loathe to draw comparisons.
“I don’t compare drivers too much. We’re all different aren’t we?”
However, he was impressed with McLaughlin’s ability to combine racing in the Supercars and New Zealand’s V8 Supertourers with his four-year apprenticeship as a steel fabricator at Rogers’ headquarters in Dandenong.
“He understands that commitment and the need to plan for the future,” he said.
Rogers felt McLaughlin had handled the pressure and demands of a full time drive smoothly.
“He’s very well-balanced, he’s intelligent, he’s not too over the top.”
“He’s not mesmerised by what he does as a racing car driver and because of that he takes it in his stride. You have to say he’s maximised every opportunity he’s had too.”
Rogers said he never felt concerned since prising McLaughlin from Stone Brothers Racing at the end of last year.
“I would never say have I looked at him anxiously. You know that he can drive, you know that he’s in a good car and that he can manage his mind set well.
“He just loves driving. The Gold Coast  was a prime example – he’d never driven one of these cars there and he qualified fifth.”
Although McLaughlin was unable to repeat his successes at Pukekohe and Ipswich – he broke down on lap 10 yesterday and was 12th today – the rising star was still rapt with his season.
“It’s definitely fast-forward more than I thought.”
He said the highlight was winning on champion Jamie Whincup’s “home” circuit at Ipswich.
“Queensland was so much more satisfying for me and the team. For one, it’s Jamie’s test track so we’ve come up from Melbourne and beat them at their own place.
“That comes back to the respect thing. I think a lot of people stood up and took notice of me and the team.
“Before that I was like ‘far out’ it’s going to be tough to beat Jamie. Now I’m not scared to pass.
“Now I feel I’ve got a bit of respect from the guys. I can talk to them and be confident in my own ability.”