- By Kassie Gadeke
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Mark Winterbottom is wary of what could be a ‘new Winton’ this weekend, but has a renewed confidence after his Perth Sunday victory.
The defending champion believes the clever result lifted him back into contention, as he sits fourth in the points heading to his home track.
Past results at the team’s test track indicate it has been a positive place for Prodrive. But a resurface, that ‘Frosty’ predicts could see the lap record lowered by up to three seconds, means all previous information is out the window.
“Winton now is a new challenge,” Winterbottom said.
“It's a completely different track surface and while it's the same track, it's going to be a different feel.
“Hopefully with tyre life and car speed we're genuinely back in contention for this championship.”
The current qualifying lap record is a 1min19.6538, set by Fabian Coulthard in 2014 when a sealant on-track created a super-grippy surface. The fastest race lap is a 1min225291 set that same year by Coulthard’s then teammate Jason Bright.
Nissan, Volvo, Holden Racing Team and Preston Hire Racing elected to test at Winton a fortnight ago, while others – including Prodrive – will have to wait until Friday to see how the track has changed since the February pre-season test.
Speaking to supercars.com, Winterbottom expressed some uncertainty about the circuit he’s driven thousands of laps around, and won at every year since 2013.
“Although it’s your test track, you feel a little bit underdone,” the Bottle-O racer said.
“We tested at the start of the year when the track was breaking up.
“We were doing ‘21s’ or whatever it was and now they’re doing 19s, probably 18s – so you feel a little bit underdone. But you still go down to turn one, go left – it’s still Winton, so knowing the track still helps, although it’s going to be different.
“I’m looking forward to rolling out and seeing what we’ve got – it’s got a bit of a different feel to it because we haven’t done many laps on the new surface, so it’s interesting.”
Winterbottom won the 200km Sunday race last year after leading teammate Chaz Mostert crashed out of contention.
The Prodrive Falcons won three from three, with Mostert taking the first 60km dash and Winterbottom the other two runs. It was that weekend Winterbottom took the championship lead, and carried it through from there until the Sydney finale.