Winterbottom: Points haul crucial at Ipswich

  • 02/08/2014
  • By V8 Supercars
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

This year surely is Mark Winterbottom's best chance to date at getting that elusive first V8 Supercars Championship crown.

But his hunter has five titles under his belt, and gunning for title of the best of all time, Jamie Whincup will be pushing to make back his Ford rival's96-point lead disappear at this weekend's Coates Hire Ipswich 400.

Winterbottom knows these next two SuperSprint rounds - before the ever important enduros - can make or break him.

"If you're in front, every point you have, you have up your sleeve and might need later. It's important, this round, and definitely, Eastern Creek (Sydney Motorsport Park 500) as well," Winterbottom told v8supercars.com.au.

"The one is fairly straight-forward (in terms of strategy), which is good, but there's a higher risk one in a few weeks' time.

"I reckon this part of the Championship is where you really review if you can win it or you can't, so it's really important. We need to qualify well, you need to make sure you get that right and at the enduros, you'll win or lose it.

"The Championship always seems to be run, and then you get to the enduros and it's like, alright, this is where I'm at."

Needless to say, 'Frosty' wants to build on his advantage before the all-or-nothing enduros, where a Sunday result is worth a possible 300 points.

"I want to lead going into the enduros because one bad race there and it could be all over," Winterbottom said.

Whincup has bridged the gap over the past few events, but his weakness on the Dunlop soft tyre, and Winterbottom's strong form on the compound, will make for interesting racing.

Winterbottom's issue has been qualifying - while Whincup has earned six ARMOR ALL Pole Positions this year.

Both teams tested recently to alleviate their respective problem - who has made more ground?

"Everyone's trying to find weaknesses and improve them. It's good to know what your weaknesses are, but it's also good if you can start to make inroads on it, so it's interesting."

While Winterbottom described the weekend's strategy as fairly straight-forward, qualifying is the key part of a result at the six-corner circuit he labeled tough to overtake.

"We have to qualify well - a tenth of a second can be 10 to 15 spots here," he said.

"Nail your lap, have a good car, but nail your lap.

"It's very hard to pass here as well, so qualify up the front and then use our tyre life to try and win the races. But if you're not in the top five here I think you're going to struggle to win the race because it takes you 20 laps to pass one person, so you're soon out of laps.

"Qualify up the front, that is the must-do here to win it."

Friday practice was a good start for Frosty, but today is payday with back-to-back qualifying sessions to determine this afternoon's races, which award 75 points apiece for a win.

"Practice proved to be pretty good but you don't focus on it too much.

"It sounds silly but it will get to the end of the year then you start to work out your absolute 'have to finish here, have to finish there' to win it.

"At the moment, if we're not quick enough, probably the next five people are going to jump us. So there's more focus to get our cars right and this weekend we're a lot happier.

"It's actually good to go racing, whether Triple Eight are quick or not, it's good to be up the front and be competitive again."

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