Kiwi Indycar star Scott McLaughlin has crashed out of the season-opener at St Petersburg, Florida, while leading the race with 20 laps remaining.
The former Supercars champion, now in his third season on the US circuit, had pitted and was racing to rejoin the race still ahead, as his rivals continued to lap the street course.
He re-entered just ahead of polesitter Romain Grosjean, but with less speed, and as McLaughlin tried to hold the Swiss driver off through the next corner, he overshot the turn and took both cars off the track.
“First and foremost, I’m very sorry to Romain,” reflected McLaughlin. “He’s a friend of mine and we were both going for the win.
“I just made a big mistake – I tried to push on cold tyres and didn’t have the grip on the inside. Unfortunately, I made wheel contact, which took us both out.”
“Look, I don’t race like that, I apologise. I just made a stuff-up, man, and you have your good days, you have your bad days.
“I really do apologise to Romain, and I’ll go man up and see him now.”
Grosjean – a former Formula One driver – has been a vocal admirer of McLaughlin previously, actively promoting him as a future F1 candidate, but he wasn’t impressed with what transpired at St Petersburg.
“I think it was pretty obvious on TV,” lamented Grosjean. “I’m very, very disappointed and I hope there will be rules put in place.
“I’m really annoyed to be talking to you as the race is going on.”
“I still admire what he has done,” he said. “He’s come from V8 Supercars and had done amazingly.
“Today, what we saw out on the track was not racing.”
McLaughlin pitted again and rejoined at the back of the field to finish 13th, but Grosjean’s car was finished for the day.
The race holds special significance for McLaughlin, who made his Indycar debut at the event in 2020 and captured his first race win there 12 months ago. He missed a chance to grab pole position this year, when he spun out after one lap and finished sixth in qualifying.
Ultimately, the race went to Swede Marcus Ericsson, with a late pass on Mexican Pato O’Ward.
One Kiwi’s misfortune brought better luck for another, as veteran Scott Dixon finished third to begin his quest for a seventh Indycar crown. In his debut, Marcus Armstrong placed 11th, after moving from Formula Two.
McLaughlin has a chance to bounce back, when the series moves to Texas Motorspeedway on April 3 (NZ time).