V8 Supercars – Whincup amongst the greats‏

December 4, 2011

V8 Supercars

As uncomfortable as he is with the comparison Jamie Whincup may rightly put himself in the same class as some of the best drivers in Australian motorsport history with his third Championship in four years.

Whincup survived a weekend of torment and challenge after a messy start to the Sydney Telstra 500 and then a painstaking final race of the year trying to stave off his rampant, fast-finishing team-mate Craig Lowndes

In a typically explosive race at the daunting Olympic Park track Whincup finished eighth after having to drive on eggshells in a mid-pack that was full of last-race road rage and danger for a man who needed to finish within 14 places of Lowndes.

He did by six places it in a race won by Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom in the Orrcon Steel Falcon, Lowndes was second and SP Tools’ Kiwi youngster Shane Van Gisbergen on the final step of the podium.

The race nearly finished under safety car after late crashes between then-second placed Paul Dumbrell followed by Winterbottom’s team-mate Will Davison, who was also second at the time.

“We just had to finish today in any position. I was expecting Craig to charge through today and go close to winning the race so I knew I had to finish better than 14th,” Whincup said.

“There were cars going off left, right and centre. I have never driven so soft before. I was slow at the restarts just trying to get clear air and stay away from the carnage, which there was plenty of.”

He admitted to being exhausted mentally and physically having gone through the machinations thousands of times in the last week. His mental strength got him through, just, after hitting a wall in the Saturday race.

“It’s been a long week to be honest. Everyone was telling me I was going to do this but it’s never done until it’s done,” was his assessment.

“I have said all week it sucks that both of us can’t actually win the Championship before we do work so hard during the year. Like any business in a way you work with your partner against everyone else and then you end up competing with each other.”

Whincup became just the second man in history after Hall of Famer Norm Beechey (1965 and 1970) to win the Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercar Championship in both a Ford and a Holden.

He joined Peter Brock and Lowndes as a three-time Champion. Only Ian Geoghegan, Dick Johnson, Mark Skaife, Allan Moffat, Bob Jane and Jim Richards have won more Championships.

It was the fifth straight year he has recorded a top-two result in the series. No other driver has achieved that in the history of the ATCC/V8SC since it became a series of races rather than being decided – as it was from 1960 to 1968 – by a single race.

“All those sorts of stories infuriate the older supporters. It’s very hard to compare then to now. There’s pros and cons. There’s more events now, the races are longer and it’s more competitive – there’s to and fros between the two of them.

“At the end of the day the Championship is incredibly competitive. It was a long run home to the finish. To get through all that and come up with the best average score is the best prize of the year.”

Lowndes fell just short of the best score – just 35 points to be exact.

“Today was another day like yesterday when I had nothing to lose,” Lowndes said.

“Jamie has had a fantastic year. Coming into this weekend it was always going to be a tall order to peg him back. Yesterday was a bit of a relief but that was only a factor of Jamie having an issue with the car.

“I am more delighted with the results we have had this weekend. We had nothing to lose and maybe I should drive like that more often.”

Mother Energy Racing’s Jonathon Webb was fourth, with Russell Ingall (Supercheap Auto Racing), Michael Caruso (Fujitsu Racing), James Courtney (Toll Holden Racing Team), Whincup, Jason Bright (Team BOC) and Tim Slade (Lucky 7 Racing) rounding out the top ten.

Holding up its reputation as a car-breaker, only 19 of the 28 cars finished today’s 250km race.

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