They have been long-time mates away from the track and this year Jamie Whincup and Will Davison get to work together for the first time in their V8 Supercars careers.
Having had race and championship battles down to the wire – particularly in 2009, when Davison came runner-up to Whincup in the title fight – both have been two of the sport’s most consistent front-runners.
With Davison moving to TEKNO Autosports – a customer team of Whincup’s Triple Eight Race Engineeering operation – the two will be close to teammates and in similar equipment for 2016.
Neither driver says they have thought too much about working together yet, but both are hoping having so many front-runners in the group – considering new recruit Shane van Gisbergen and six-time Bathurst champ Craig Lowndes – will mean a big push for the title.
“We’re competitors at the end of the day,” Davison told v8supercars.com.au.
“Jamie’s my mate, but I don’t think ‘I want to work closely with my mate’. At the end of the day we race really hard and from my aspects, Jamie is the best in the business … it’s very exciting for me to work closely with Triple Eight, see the way they work and actually see it firsthand.”
Likewise, Whincup believes Triple Eight’s expansion to three cars will help spur everyone on.
“I haven’t really looked at it from a friendship point of view, just a performance point of view and it’s great to have expanded to three cars – including TEKNO, four cars. It’s really critical to have good drivers as teammates to be able to bring the whole group up,” Whincup said.
“It’s fantastic we’ve got a good driver to add to all the data and knowledge – but you’re right, the whole time we’ve been together we’ve never worked side by side together as teammates.
“I’m actually really looking forward to checking out Wilbur’s data. No doubt he’s one of the best drivers out there, give him the gear and he’s going to be a serious competitor.
“Mainly I’m looking forward to working with him rather than competing against him.”
Davison laughed about a recent catch-up when they realised they could speak about racing for the first time – though Whincup hoped they would stay well away from the topic when catching up away from the track.
“Racing with Jamie for however long, we’ve never really discussed racing – it just doesn’t happen, it’s so separate,” Davison said.
“We were out on the bike at the end of last year and we were discussing setups and things and he said, ‘I’ve got nothing to hide anymore, you go into Tekno and look at the setup sheet yourself’.
“So all of a sudden we were open with each other and that was certainly something very different from my perspective – not because he’s a mate but because he’s obviously the best in the business.”
Mates in the same garage has been a bit of a theme, after James Moffat signed with Garry Rogers Motorsport to drive alongside good friend Scott McLaughlin. Team boss Rogers revealed their friendship almost stopped him from signing Moffat – but he believed the two were mature enough to overcome any issues.
Whincup said he hoped working with Davison didn’t change anything away from the track.
“We focus on our friendship and talk about things non-motorsport … our lives are so involved with motorsport, it’s refreshing to have good, close people you can talk everything else with,” he said.
“I’m hoping that doesn’t change actually – I’m hoping we don’t get in a scenario where we just talk motorsport like we do with everyone else for the rest of the week.
“So I’m hoping the dynamic stays and we’ll be working together, helping each other out – fingers crossed we do it well and we can have a 2009 scenario again where we are battling it out.”
Whincup has won six V8 Supercars Championships, while Davison finished second once in '09 with Holden Racing Team and third, behind the two Triple Eight cars, in 2013.
The two have had some incredible battles on track – including a meeting Whincup recalls as one of his career best, the Clipsal 500 in 2012. And it hasn’t always come up roses for the pair, colliding on track as all rivals do.
“We’ve been good mates, we had a cracker battle in ‘09 for the whole year, but we’ve had our battles and our moments as well,” Whincup said.
“I remember in 2008 we crashed into each other three times in four race meetings – but hey, we were able to sort that out over a few beers and move on.”
This year, though, he expects it to be different.
“I feel like a kid again – I’m coming back in on my toes and feeling really nervous but excited,” Davison said of the season.
“At the end of the day, we’re our own team, TEKNO, but I believe the relationship with Triple Eight is incredibly strong and it’s all open … it’s going to be great to work with those guys and CL as well. I’ll be in the garage with him – I’m not exactly sure how it’s all going to work but it’s going to be quite interesting.
“I can’t give you the answers yet, but it’s going to be really good.”