The Ford Falcons will not come out and blow the competition away at the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.
That’s the bold prediction of six-time V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup, who is convinced the pace advantage that allowed Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert to score a 1-2 four-peat at Albert Park last year in their Prodrive FG Xs has now been erased.
“They (the Falcons) will be very quick (at Albert Park), they will be hard to beat, but they won’t have an advantage,” Whincup told v8supercars.com.
“If we do a good job with our package we should be equally as quick.”
Winterbottom’s four straight wins at the Melbourne circuit in 2015 was the first sign of a dominant run of form that would see him take a lead in the V8 Supercars drivers’ championship that he would never surrender.
The AGP result was unexpected because the FG Xs had debuted at the season-opening Clipsal 500 without showing the pace advantage that was to come.
In fact just like 2015, Winterbottom was not a victory threat at the Clipsal this year, with his team-mate Chaz Mostert showing stronger form.
And also like 2015, Whincup won the first race of the season in his Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore VF.
But he then suffered a disastrous run of outs as the Ford dominated and the Holden teams struggled to tune the new aerodynamic packs of their Commodores.
Whincup won only one race out of his next 20 starts after Clipsal before a late-season revival brought him five wins in his last nine starts.
However, Whincup is confident history isn’t about to repeat itself and whatever the FG Xs have to offer at the AGP his Triple Eight Holden Commodore VF will have the speed to match them.
“They (Prodrive) had a great package, they just didn’t have the package right at Clipsal. But they got it right at the AGP onwards and left us for dead,” said Whincup of 2015.
“But we ground it out and hunted them down and matched their pace and was able to be a step ahead at the end of the year.”
Whincup was basing his forecast for this week’s four hard tyre sprints on the speed of the various front-runners at this year’s Clipsal 500, where he claimed a second as well as his win in the dry on Saturday, before struggling to 14th in Sunday’s wet race.
“Plenty of good came out of the (Clipsal) weekend. We had good pace, we were good as any one as far as dry running.
“We had pace and that’s the main thing. No-one has found half-a-second over the break. We aren’t half-a-second off the pace.
“We have good cars, the right people. We have as good a chance as anyone this year. We have just got to do the job.”
Whincup made it clear there would be no other objective for the team at the AGP than win races. Triple Eight hasn’t won a race at Australia’s biggest international motor racing event since he scored scored two victories in a TeamVodafone VE Commodore in 2011.
“The approach (at the AGP) is to keep moving forward with the car,” said Whincup.
“It is not a test day or anything silly like that, we are going to go out there and compete equally every time we are on the track to show what we are made of.
“It’s a very important event for Red Bull, so we make sure we put our best foot forward.”
Whincup also weighed in to the debate about the future of the event following on from V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton’s call to make it a points-paying round of the championship.
“I am all for it not being a championship round,” he revealed. “Everyone keeps talking about ‘lets make the AGP a championship event’ but I completely disagree. We don’t have to have every single race as a championship event.
“There is good racing there. I don’t think it is going to make the spectacle any better and therefore affect how many tickets we sell. Not at all.
“I think people come out and see the cars, watch them go round and see all of us have a bit of a crack and rub some doorhandles.
“There’s no more doorhandle rubbing than at the AGP. If anything making it a championship round might slow that up a bit.
“I don’t think we need to make it a championship event, we should be concentrating on good racing and making it a championship race won’t do that.”