How new rule hid Whincup’s speed

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 01/08/2019
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Jamie Whincup’s drought-breaking win on Saturday at the Century Batteries Ipswich SuperSprint came just 24 hours after the driver lamented being on ‘struggle street’.

Whincup was eighth and almost half-a-second down on pacesetter Scott McLaughlin at the end of Friday’s running.

Having earlier been buoyed by a pre-event test day, the seven-time champion said after Practice 2 that "it seems like we have taken a step back".

He was then 18th in Saturday morning’s Practice 3, before qualifying second and winning the race on pace, sensationally snapping a 24-race winless streak.

Speaking after the Saturday race, team principal Roland Dane scorched Whincup’s earlier "struggle street" comment as "nonsense", claiming "we weren’t that far away".

Reflecting on the situation at the end of the weekend, team manager Mark Dutton explained how the nature of the new parc ferme rules hid Whincup’s true speed.

For the second time this year, a Supercars trial prohibited set-up changes between the end of ARMOR ALL Qualifying and the race.

That effectively forced teams to run conservative set-ups in qualifying, so as not to burn their tyres out in the race, but practice was a different story.

"When you’re qualifying, you’re qualifying with a race car [due to the parc ferme rules]," Dutton told Supercars.com.

"But you can run a full qualifying car in practice, trying to [make the top 10 and therefore] skip Q1. That’s the only time when you can run it, which is quite funny.

"There were other teams doing that [in practice] when we wanted to maximise learning [with a qualifying/race set-up].

"Yes, we got through on Saturday and skipped Q1, which was the goal, but we did it while running a bit more risk, because we wanted to maximise learning.

"Like anything, if it hadn’t worked, we would have been kicking ourselves for not doing it the other way, but we wanted to maximise learnings for the race cars."

Whincup had a less spectacular run on Sunday, qualifying third, but finishing a distant fourth in the race, seven seconds down on winner Scott McLaughlin.

"We need to understand," added Dutton of Sunday’s relative slump for Whincup, whose team-mate Shane van Gisbergen finished second.

"It happens when you’re constantly trying to improve, because you can’t sit still, you can’t say ‘yesterday’s car was so good, just fit that’, because no one else is sitting still.

"But Saturday we had excellent pace and amazing tyre life, and [Sunday] we weren’t as strong in either department."

Despite his quiet Sunday, Whincup noted it "wasn't a bad day at all", and was buoyed by the weekend as a whole.

"I think Queensland Raceway 2019 has a nice big tick next to it," he said.

"We’ve made the cars faster, I think we should take that and be very grateful."

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