McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris claimed a virtual Supercars win at the Circuit of the Americas during his second appearance in the series.
Norris, who had picked up a maiden podium on his debut at Spa last week, made good use of the reverse-grid format for the second COTA race – where he won on his IndyCar iRacing Challenge debut last month – to deliver a controlled victory.
Representing the Walkinshaw Andretti United team co-owned by McLaren F1 CEO Zak Brown, Norris had lined up eighth on the grid for the opening race and was making progress despite a slow intial start.
Having overtaken Chaz Mostert, he found himself behind series frontrunner Cam Waters but wound up sending Waters’ Monster Energy-liveried car into a spin.
Although the actual contact between the pair wasn’t obvious, Norris was swiftly penalised with a drive-through and ultimately owned up to his role in the incident, apologising to Waters but attributing “a little bit of the blame” to the Internet connection between the UK and Australia.
After serving his drive-through, Norris switched focus to the reverse-grid race, for which he would line up third on the grid behind Craig Lowndes and Josh Fife.
He passed Lowndes on the run down to Turn 1 and looked to swoop by Fife exiting the corner, but Fife clipped his rear right panel, sending Norris into a half-spin which cost him momentum as he dropped down to fifth.
But Norris immediately passed Lowndes again and benefitted from a clash between Fife and Jake Kostecki up ahead to run second behind leader Todd Hazelwood at the end of the opening lap.
By lap three Norris was on Hazelwood’s tail, and though his spotter suggested he have his mandatory pitstop on that lap to avoid losing time, Norris was confident of passing Hazelwood – and got the move done down the inside of the final corner.
Hazelwood was then passed by Waters during the pitstop phase, but Norris had established a lead of over a second by then – and Waters was unable to make inroads, leaving the McLaren man free to claim the series’ first guest driver win.
“To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the reverse grids,” Norris told the Supercars broadcaster afterwards.
“I love it for the TV and the action, and I think it’s a really good show, but personally winning a reverse-grid [race] from starting at the front, it’s never for me the thing to be most proud of to be honest. I got put there because I was last in the previous race.
“So, I don’t think it’s a thing to be most proud of, especially because I know I should’ve been fighting a bit more at the front and starting at the back in this race and trying to come through like the others.”
Nah, yeah! Lando takes the win in Race 2!
— Walkinshaw Andretti United (@FollowWAU) May 13, 2020
Finally, Norris lined up eighth on the grid for the main 20-lap race, but he hit series leader Scott McLaughlin down the inside of Turn 1 at the start and a subsequent slowdown penalty demoted him to 14th.
He then had a collision with Zane Goddard, but drove a tidy two-stopper from there on to finish ninth.
Fellow returning guest driver, IndyCar champion Will Power, was an impressive fourth in the opener, 16th in the reverse-grid race and fifth in the final contest.
The third race also featured a late contact between Anton de Pasquale and Shane van Gisbergen, the latter who had won the opening race.
Van Gisbergen spun De Pasquale around on the final lap trying to take the lead, but waited for De Pasquale to return to racing and waved him past, settling for second place. The pair clashed last week at Spa for the lead as well.
Series leader Scott McLaughlin picked up a pair of third-place finishes in the first and third race, the latter made possible by the stewards ordering Waters to allow him back past after contact.