On this day: An all-time great winning journey begins

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 26/03/2021
  • By James Pavey

The first of Jamie Whincup’s record 122 race victories was recorded on this day 15 years ago.

March 26 will forever hold a key place in Supercars history, with a 23-year-old Whincup hitting the top step for the first time.

Adelaide was kind to Whincup, who won a record 11 races on the South Australian streets.

His first victory came a day after he christened his Triple Eight debut with third, behind teammate and Race 1 winner Craig Lowndes.

WATCH: WHINCUP’S FIRST EVER WIN

Whincup’s Race 2 win, which also helped him to overall weekend honours, was his first race win since his Australian Formula Ford title breakthrough in 2002.

Very few could have predicted the heights Whincup would reach in the years following, with the now 38-year-old chasing an eighth championship in his final full-time campaign.

Should he go on to win championships, his race winning journey had to begin somewhere.

It’s no secret that Whincup endured a torrid run to reach Triple Eight, having been dropped from a full-time drive with Garry Rogers Motorsport at the end of 2003.

Whincup crosses the line for win No. 1

March 26 in 2006 began like any other race day in Adelaide; the heat was on, the competition was fierce, and the track was unforgiving.

Whincup’s road to victory began poorly, with the Triple Eight recruit dropping from P3 to P8 off the start.

However, in an early glimpse of the meticulous driver that was to embed himself in the category, Whincup pieced together his race after an early stop.

A lap 22 Safety Car period allowed the Betta Electrical-backed #88 Falcon to undertake a fuel stop as Whincup’s rivals took on tyres.

The bent rim which nearly curtailed his hopes

Whincup was vaulted back into the lead pack, with Lowndes caught up in a multi-car accident exiting the first chicane.

From there, Triple Eight threw its faith in its junior star, with Whincup retaining the lead after a Turn 8 accident for Greg Murphy and Mark Skaife.

With the race win, Whincup, then an unheralded star, led the championship after the opening round.

He would go on to end the year 10th overall, and famously combined with Lowndes to win on the mountain in the weeks after Peter Brock’s death.

Celebrate like it's March 26, 2006

His first win, though, was no walk in the Adelaide Parklands, with Whincup surviving contact with Dean Canto, which caused a bent rim.

While now an established superstar of the category, Whincup was once an up-and-comer, and after the win, was pleased he could help the new generation make waves.

"I'm delighted for not just myself, but also for the younger group of drivers in this championship," he said after the win.

"I know that I'm not the only young driver that can really challenge the established stars.

Kelly brothers Todd and Rick join Whincup on the podium

"The key to our result today was that we set our own plan with the early pit stop. The guys told me to put my head down and work towards the middle part of the race.

"The Safety Car fell perfectly for us, as we just came into the fuel window to make it to the end. The job was by no means then done. I had to fight all the way as I had Todd [Kelly] giving me plenty.

"To not only win, but also lead the championship has far exceeded my aim before this weekend.”

It would be another two years before Whincup again won in Adelaide, in a year he clinched his first title.

WATCH: WHINCUP’S RECORD 11th ADELAIDE WIN

Adelaide was also the scene of arguably his greatest victory, which came following the passing of his father David.

Understanding how difficult his journey had been, Whincup drank in the plaudits of the victory, which was the first of a record 122.

The Whincup we know today still says all the things the Whincup of 2006; that is, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, but always think about the big picture.

Fast forward 15 years, and he will retire at season’s end as the category’s most successful driver, many labelling him as the greatest of all time.

One happy camper after a maiden win

He will also enter 2022 as Triple Eight’s top dog, having agreed to take the reins from Roland Dane.

On March 26 in 2006, though, his winning story began, and it came about with Whincup having to work hard and force himself back into the discussion.

"I have had to earn my place in this championship and I know that I can't rest on this result," he said.

"Today was the first race I had led since Formula Ford in 2002.

Whincup with his late father David

"In many ways, I had to remember how to not just lead again, but also protect that lead.

"The lessons I've learnt over the past four years has taught me to never look so far ahead.

"I really concentrate on how I perform as apposed to the results sheet. I must say that this weekend I was happy with both.

"My life has changed so much since coming to [Triple Eight]… the major factor is that I have never worked so close with a team before."

Whincup's final full-time campaign will continue next month at the Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo.

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