New kid on the block: The Feeney parallels with Whincup

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 31/08/2021
  • By James Pavey

Broc Feeney will be handed the keys to one of the quickest cars in pit lane in 2022.

However, it’s not the first time Triple Eight Race Engineering will be taking a punt on a young driver.

The last time the team did, they plucked a young driver named Jamie Whincup from relative obscurity.

Whincup had already proven himself in other categories, notably defeating the highly-fancied Mark Winterbottom for the 2002 Formula Ford crown.

A maiden full-time main game campaign followed, with Garry Rogers handing Whincup a chance. However, he lost the drive after finishing 27th overall, Whincup failing to record a top 10.

Ninth alongside Alex Davison aboard a Perkins Commodore in the 2004 Great Race paved the way to a deal to drive for Tasman Motorsport in 2005.

Narrowly missing the podium in China was a great effort, but Whincup was a standout alongside Jason Richards in the 2005 enduros.

After finishing third at Sandown, Richards and Whincup were narrowly defeated at Mount Panorama by Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly.

Podiums in the season’s biggest races helped Whincup earn a call from Roland Dane, after Craig Lowndes took Triple Eight to new heights in 2005.

Whincup had a false start in 2003 for GRM Pic: AN1 Images

"We are very pleased to secure Jamie,” Dane said at the time of Whincup’s signing.

"He has shown himself to be a true racer with consistency that belies his years.

"We feel he will compliment Craig and possibly become a protege, following in his footsteps, perhaps I can be so bold to say he could become the new 'Kid'.

"Our aim over the next few years is to remain truly competitive in the hunt for the championship and to have both cars consistently performing in the top 10.

"Jamie joining the team should ensure we achieve these team objectives.”

Few could have predicted Whincup’s meteoric rise from there; he won on his Triple Eight debut in Adelaide, and helped Lowndes to an emotional Bathurst win.

Bathurst victory in 2006

12 months later, Whincup narrowly missed out on the 2007 title to a dominant Garth Tander, who won 15 races.

The nous Whincup demonstrated in 2007 - to put in calculated drives rather than all-out attacks - would become his trademark.

Whincup would win seven titles for Triple Eight, each more meticulous than the last, as he carved out the most successful career in ATCC/Supercars history.

So, where are the parallels with Feeney?

Feeney became the youngest ever winner of the Super3 title in 2019, and kept a calm head in his maiden Bathurst 1000 start - on his 18th birthday, no less.

A 16-year-old Feeney claimed a pole and win in the opening Super3 event of 2019, a year after he became the youngest winner in Toyota 86 history.

Whincup had already won four titles before he turned 30

Prior to his signing with Triple Eight for the 2021 Dunlop Super2 Series, Feeney was called up to the Tickford Racing ranks for the 2020 season.

It was a truncated season, giving him little time to get up to speed. However, he qualified on the front row in Sydney, and finished seventh overall.

Unlike Whincup, who didn’t finish the 2002 Bathurst 1000 - the year Feeney was born - Feeney scored a Great Race top 10.

Feeney combined with James Courtney, who defeated Whincup to the 2010 title, to finish 10th in a Bathurst 1000 won by Feeney’s 2022 teammate Shane van Gisbergen.

Title, check. Backing from big teams, check. Bathurst result, check.

Feeney (C) has so far dominated the 2021 Super2 season

Van Gisbergen himself was thrown in the deep end as a teenager, debuting for a Stone Brothers Racing-backed Team Kiwi effort in 2007.

It would be four years until van Gisbergen would win a race, and another five before he won his first title.

Triple Eight, however, won’t be keen to wait around for Feeney, considering the team’s investment in the young gun.

Aside from his Super2 duties, Feeney has been partnered in a Triple Eight wildcard alongside Russell Ingall for this year’s Great Race.

Still, the team’s faith in Feeney was again proven at Tuesday’s announcement, with Dane echoing a similar sentiment to that of Whincup’s recruitment 16 years ago.

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