Jamie Whincup has declared he should not be leading the V8 Supercars Championship.
But the four-time and defending champion will take his narrow points advantage over a gathering horde of pursuing rivals as the title race heads into the all-important PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
“Red Bull Racing is still the best team in pitlane and I have the best crew in the world, but I personally don’t feel like we should be leading the Championship,” Whincup told v8supercars.com.au.
“I have made a few key errors this year and any other year with that amount of errors we shouldn’t be leading.
“We are very fortunate that no-one has done an exceptionally good job so far and somehow we are leading the championship. We’ll take that, but we know we have to massively improve our performance to be in the same position as we were last year.”
Whincup has had a lousy run by his standards since dominating the Austin 400 in Texas, winning only twice in 11 starts in the following four Championship events.
Last weekend’s Winton 400 was the low point. He retired while leading Saturday’s 60/60 Super Sprint when a tail-shaft broke in his Holden Commodore VF. In Race 26 on Sunday he also DNFed after suffering damage in an opening lap collision with Fujitsu Racing GRM’s Alex Premat. His only finish was 13th in Race 27.
Whincup leads Pepsi Max Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison by 55 points, fellow factory Ford driver Mark Winterbottom by 70 points with RBRA teammate Craig Lowndes dropping from second to fourth, 72 points off the pace, after a post-race penalty.
But that’s just the start of it, with the top nine drivers in the Championship separated by only 245 points.
Whincup has benefited from the unprecedented spread of 12 winners in the 2013 Championship. Compare that to 2012, when only Lowndes, Davison and Winterbottom joined him on the winners list.
At Winton Whincup was especially lucky because Winterbottom could not back-up his Race 26 win, finishing only 17th after qualifying 19th in Race 27.
“I’m sure he had an issue or something like that in qualifying,” Whincup said. “He should have qualified up the front and he should be leading the Championship by now. You don’t get those opportunities very often so we have to make sure we don’t give anyone else the opportunity.”
With 300 points up for grabs at both the Wilson Security Sandown 500 and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, Whincup knows the endurance races will be vital and a lift in performance necessary if he is to win his fifth Championship in six years.
“The enduros are unbelievably important without doubt. They are not the be-all or end-all, but they are unbelievably important. So we are heading in to a crucial part of the year and I am sure everyone is going to be on their A-game.
“What we are currently doing is not going to win it,” he warned. “We need to step up, we have done it plenty of times before. It is a new challenge, it is painful, it’s time consuming. You burn the midnight oil and it’s stressful times.
“But it’s times like this when you look back at the end of the year and say ‘hey, we really earned it’.”
One issue Whincup addressed without even being prompted by www.v8supercars.com.au was the absence of Adrian Burgess, the former RBRA team manager who has been sent on gardening leave by team owner Roland Dane for the rest of the year after signing up to become managing director of Walkinshaw Racing in 2014.
“No, this (Winton performance) has got nothing to do with Adrian departing. There are 50 people that make up Red Bull Racing. Adrian departing, myself departing, even Roland departing, doesn’t change the performance of the team, not in the short term anyway. Maybe long term yes, but not in the short term.
“I’ll bet Adrian was sitting at home thinking ‘phew that was a good weekend to miss’.”
Red Bull Racing will test at Ipswich in early September ahead of the Wilson Security Sandown 500.