He’s New Zealand’s latest sports star, shaking up the high-speed world of V8 racing – but Scott McLaughlin owes much of the success to his parents, and is desperate to pay them back.
Scott only turned 20 last month, but has already joined an elite group of Kiwi teenagers, such as Daniel Vettori, Jonah Lomu and Lydia Ko, to have achieved sporting success at the very top level.
His ITM 400 win at Pukekohe in April made the history books, as Scott became the youngest driver to win a V8 race, leaving veterans such as Jamie Whincup trailing in his wake. It still gives him goosebumps, but is also a reminder of how much his parents have sacrificed to help him get to the top.
His mum Diane (54) and her husband of 24 years, Wayne, sat in the grandstand and watched the youngster cross the finish line. And they’ve been helping fuel their son’s dreams of being a racing great since he was six-years-old – to the tune of around half-a-million dollars.
“It was a surreal and emotional moment,” says Diane.“To see him win there, on that track, after five years of the races not being at Pukekohe, was special,” she adds.
Despite Scott’s youth, it’s been a long road to the winning podium. As a child, his parents drove their son around the country to compete in go-kart racing competitions. Ever since, Mum and Dad have heavily invested in Scott, both emotionally and financially.
They moved to Australia in 2003, where Diane and Wayne set up a freight business in Queensland, and when their son was selected for a driver development league aged 16, they shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to buy his race car.
“I want to pay back Mum and Dad for how much they have done for me,” says Scott, whose sporting hero is Kiwi racing legend Greg Murphy.
“It’s an awesome feeling having their support. But I am sure they wouldn’t have it any other way,” adds Scott.
Diane and Wayne instilled a strong work ethic in Scott, and the value of the dollar. He moved to Melbourne on his own this year, to race for Garry Rogers Motorsport, where he also works as an apprentice car fabricator – although the former Christchurch kid is proud to call the “Garden City” home.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees. Scott has a sister, Samantha, and we haven’t invested anywhere near as much money in her over the years,” says Diane.
“He’s in a very privileged place, and we’ve told him he has to pay us back a certain figure when he is more settled in his career.”
And rather than splurge his earnings, Scott is using his money sensibly.
“In this sport, anything can happen. I’ve only got until I’m 35, 40 tops [to earn a living], and by then I’m going to have a family, so I need to be smart with my money,” adds Scott.
There’s another sacrifice that comes with being the mother of a race-car driver – peace of mind. Diane was watching helplessly from the couch at home, as Scott was involved in a seven-car pile up at the Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin last week.
“I felt sick,” says Diane. “It was on TV and there was a big poof of dust and you’re just waiting for the dirt to settle to see what’s going on. “I worry about him being out there, but I would never stop him doing it. He’s doing what he loves,” she adds.
Scott also competes in the New Zealand V8 SuperTourer competition, and Diane and Wayne manage Scott’s New Zealand team. But since his move to Melbourne for the Australian circuit, they have taken a step back.
“We need to let Scott do his own thing and get on with his job,” says Diane.
“I said to my mum just the other day, I’m really happy,” says Scott. “This year has been awesome and it’s changed my life.”
Emma Rawson. Photos: Fiona Tomlinson • Hair & Make-up: Claudia Rodrigues • Styling: Emma Aubin • P30 & 31 (main) scott’s jacket and T-shirt from Huffer. Diane’s dress from Trenery. Location: Crave Cafe, Morningside