Rest assured Ford fans it wasn’t an act of politeness butactually a cunning plan that prompted factory driver Mark Winterbottom to allowarch-rival Jamie Whincup back into the queue ahead of him for the re-start ofthe 60/60 Super Sprint qualifying session at Barbagallo Raceway on Saturday.
It was a move that shocked observers and fans watching ontelevision and at the track at the Chill Perth 360, and drew a strong reactionfrom Channel Seven Commentator Mark Skaife, who felt Winterbottom should haveblocked Whincup from rejoining the queue.
It was one of those moments that reinforced the perception –for those who think that way – that Winterbottom lacks killer instinct. It wasa perception hardly erased when Winterbottom later told pitlane reporter MarkLarkham he didn’t even know who he was waving into line.
But he did. And he had a specific reason to do it.
“I was actually going to get a tow from him,” explained the PepsiMax Ford FG Falcon driver, referring to the aerodynamic – and therefore lap time– advantage gained by following another car very closely on straights.
“I thought if I could tow him I could get better lap time,”Winterbottom said. “I was definitely trying to do it for my advantage, so if itdidn’t advantage me then I wouldn’t have let him in.”
Despite the validity of the plan, reality failed to work outfor Winterbottom, as the Red Bull Holden VF Commodore driver snared a spectacularlast second pole while Winterbottom could only qualify sixth after out-brakinghimself at the last corner on his hottest lap.
Whincup also had the better results in the races, finishingwith both wins on Sunday and a second behind teammate Crag Lowndes on Saturday.Whincup regained the lead in the V8 Supercars Championship from Winterbottom’steammate Will Davison as well.
Winterbottom, who was the fourth highest points scorer overthe weekend, suffered the indignity of a pit stop wheel nut drama similar tothe one that struck the team at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide also.
Winterbottom now finds himself languishing in ninth place inthe Championship and remans winless despite showing great pace. He and Whincuphave been at it several times this year, including some pushing and shoving on-trackat Pukekohe.
It’s an on-track rivalry that reflects their feelings for eachother off the track. “I don’t like the bloke I’ll be honest, I respect him on-trackbut we are not best mates,” said Winterbottom of Whincup.