Whincup to face "big test" this weekend

  • 01/08/2014
  • By V8 Supercars
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

He was triumphant at the last event in Townsville, taking two race wins from three, including Sunday's big points earner.

Now sitting second in the Championship, five-time and defending champ Jamie Whincup wants the points in these next two events, to ensure he heads into the Pirtek Enduro Cup in the best possible position.

Whincup was blunt about his Red Bull team's struggle on the Dunlop soft compound tyre, which will be used exclusively at the Coates Hire Ipswich 400 this weekend.

The team rescheduled its usual pre-Bathurst test day to run at the Queensland Raceway circuit around a fortnight ago, with the intention of making in-roads on the soft tyre, which will be used at the next two events.

So, Red Bull is throwing everything at getting an advantage on the softs and making the most of the next two SuperSprint rounds, to pick up every point possible.

"Exactly - that's spot on, I probably couldn't have said it better," Whincup told v8supercars.com.au.

"We don't want to be messing around these next two rounds like we have been at the start of the year. So we've thrown everything at it, so we'll see if that's going to pay off or not. Time will tell."

This weekend is the real challenge - to see how they line up against competitors, particularly Ford Performance Racing, who have had found strong pace and tyre life on the softs and currently lead the Championship, with Whincup's boyhood rival Mark Winterbottom just 96 points ahead.

"I can't stress enough, our Achilles heel has been our pace on the soft tyre - the last two rounds have been on hard, so now is the big test.

"We've done a hell of a lot of work behind the scenes to improve our performance on the soft and time will tell again this weekend if we've made a gain or whether we haven't.

"I'm confident we have, but we'll have to wait until we get out there to see where we rate to our opposition."

Whincup noted there were plenty of positives for him heading into the Coates Hire Ipswich 400, particularly with an upturn of results at the past two rounds, having won four of the past six races and seven for the season.

Add to that lining up for his 150th round start, at the track where he debuted in a V8 Supercar back in 2002 and scored his first ever pole position.

Funnily enough, Whincup's first pole didn't come until 2007, with Triple Eight (then TeamVodafone) - and prior to that he had worried he wasn't the kind of driver who could jag a qualifying lap!

"First pole was huge - I really felt like I wasn't good at getting pole, it really took me a long time and I wasn't anywhere near the mark," Whincup reflected.

"It's a funny though to think back - I thought, gee I may never get a pole position, this is hard work, maybe I'm just not the type of driver to get poles - and then as soon as I got my first one here I sort of had that belief.

"Now I sit here with the most poles of all time. I don't know what it was, but something clicked along the line and I got that belief, and ran with it."

Of his first start - as part of what was then the VIP Petfoods Queensland 500, the pre-Bathurst enduro - Whincup said the result wasn't memorable (20th of 35 cars).

"I was racing Formula Ford in 2002 - and I (was) sort of sponsored by Garry Rogers Motorsport, Valvoline Cummins Repco.

"Discussions went on during the year for me to do the enduros at the end of the year, with Garry, so they eventuated and I raced here with Max Dumesny, the Sprint Car driver.

"I can't remember the race, but I raced Formula Ford on the Saturday, won the Championship, didn't have to compete in the last race, so I missed it and focused on the V8 for Sunday.

"I can't remember how we went, but it wasn't too good! But all in all a good experience for me."

Will Queensland Raceway be a lucky charm for Whincup this weekend? He has recorded two wins here - the same number as Winterbottom.

Meanwhile, Red Bull teammate Craig Lowndes has racked up a whopping 11 over his career and will be looking to bouce back and reignite his Championship after a shocker in Townsville.

Practice begins at 10.10am this morning, with qualifying and two races to follow tomorrow, and one 200km dash on Sunday at the Coates Hire Ipswich 400.

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