Three-time supercar champion McLaughlin ran the 1.8-mile distance in St. Petersburg 0.1237 seconds faster than teammate Will Power to snatch the pole when he starts his second season at IndyCar.
In 2021, racing engineer Jonathan Digwid switched to the Porsche Penske LMDh sports car project, and a branch of the legendary IndyCar team cut the contract to three cars, and the McLaughlin car is now being developed by Ben Bretsman, a longtime partner now. Simon Pagno left.
McLaughlin told the media: “You know you can do it, but sometimes – obviously in Australia we’ve had great success with the poles, the victories and all that, and you know you can do it, but you’re having a hard year like ’21. where it just didn’t click, and there were a few things where you just didn’t put it together, but you know the speed is there. The whole point is to take the pressure off yourself and just focus on what you need to do, and that’s what we did today.
“We work really well with my new engineer, Ben Bretsman, who was fantastic for me. Jonathan Digwid, with whom I previously worked, he has mostly helped me so far. He was the only engineer I’ve worked with so far, and Ben picked me up and just polished me there. I feel good. “
McLaughlin said he “really worked hard in the off-season to make sure I was ready for work. It’s important and I’m here, and it’s important that I push these guys [Will Power and Josef Newgarden who qualified second and ninth respectively today] because it will only make them better and it will only make me better as a team …
“We worked very hard on this track with the simulator, and thankfully the simulator was fantastic for that, and it led me to a great basic setup that I really only touched on a bit here and there, just tuning it up, trying to figure out what was right.
“I know what I’m riding on and I can just punch circles and find time in myself, which is exactly what I did on that circle in the third quarter. I made a circle that I worked on throughout the session and didn’t quite get it. I looked at Will’s data, took a little look at Joseph and just put them together. Didn’t panic.
“And I don’t think you can buy experience. Of course, I feel very comfortable now in the series and in the car. “
McLaughlin also praised Chevrolet, which took three of the top four qualifying positions, for improving engine handling on slow turns.
“Yes, I think it was an absolutely significant step forward that Chevy is making with our management, in particular, and it’s very hard work on their part and working with all the teams. So I certainly feel a lot better, and definitely some of the microsectors in which we’ve been slower over the last couple of years have been really good, and the handling there is much better.
“Honestly, I’m starting to like it a bit – I won’t go into too much detail because there’s a guy from Honda sitting next to me. [Romain Grosjean]but I feel much better, and of course I think Will would say the same thing. ”