V8 Supercars Championship leader Jamie Whincup has arrivedat the Circuit of the Americas declaring himself in holiday mode and runningbehind in his preparation for this weekend’s historic Austin 400.
The admission from the Red Bull Holden Commodore VF staroffers glimmers of hope to his rivals that Whincup might not be the dominantforce at the Circuit of the Americas that he has often been in the category’sfly away races.
And it is also surprising because the 30-year old four-timeV8 Supercars Champion has a reputation for meticulous preparation and an almostfanatical attention to detail in his racing.
“I have got to admit I am probably the least prepared I havebeen for a long time so I’ll go out there on Friday and learn the circuit, andif I can run in the 10 I will be happy,” Whincup told a Thursday (US time)press conference at the circuit.
“I haven’t been here; I haven’t seen the circuit untilyesterday. A few of the other boys have been here and had a look around andprobably studied it a lot more than I have. I have been in holiday mode sowe’ll see tomorrow.”
Part of the frustration for Whincup is the lack of data forhim to study as V8s have never raced at COTA before and only a few races havebeen conducted in total at the new facility.
“We rely on data from the cars from previous years, also theonboard footage as well, and we have zero of that outside the few laps thatJames (Courtney) did and F1 and MotoGP and stuff like that.
“So you do what you can, but it’s much the same foreveryone, we are all not sure, and you won’t know until you are in your own caron fresh tyres having a flat-out go.
“It’s a bit of challenge for all of us, we all want to bequickest out the gate, we all want to perform well on a brand new circuit, so Ithink we are going to have a crack and see where we end up.”
The V8 Supercars will contest four 100km races on the 3.7kmshort version of the COTA course, two on Saturday and two on Saturday. Eachrace includes a mandatory pit stop in which at least two tyres must be changed.
There are 28 hard tyres allocated to each car that also mustcover four practice sessions on Friday and two qualifying sessions on each ofFriday and Saturday.
Because no-one has raced at COTA before all cars will beable to participate in the first two practice sessions, something that Whincupsees as a mixed blessing.
“It’s great we get more practice time, that’s a bonus,” hesaid. “We are massively limited on tyres though unfortunately. With so manycorners we are going to be tearing tyres up, so although we have a heap of timewe won’t be able to do a heap of laps or we will be out of rubber. It wouldhave been nice to get an extra set.”
Whincup acknowledged that his 67 Championship points leadover Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison would potentially come into playover the weekend in determining just how hard he would race for victory in thecategory’s first visit to the USA.
“I will make that call in the race depending on where I am,”he said.
“The first V8 Supercars race in the United States isobviously a huge deal for all of us, and I am not just saying that because weare here. I think whoever stands on top of the podium or gets the most pointsover the weekend is going to be pretty proud of themselves.
“Is it like a Bathurst where you forget about thechampionship and just worry about the win? I am not sure you can go that far,but it it’s certainly going to mean a lot to the winner of the event.”