Owen's experience to aid Frosty

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 08/09/2015
  • By Bruce Newton

Gun co-driver Steve Owen will draw on past experience to assist Mark Winterbottom navigate the Pirtek Enduro Cup safely and stay in the lead of the V8 Supercars Championship.

The two-time development series champion will partner Winterbottom in a Pepsi-Max Ford Falcon for the second consecutive year in the three co-driver races that start with this weekend's Wilson Security Sandown 500.

Winterbottom goes into Sandown leading the championship by 174 points from team-mate Chaz Mostert, who will share his Falcon FG X with Prodrive Racing Australia's Dunlop development series star Cameron Waters.

Sandown and Bathurst are both worth up to 300 points while each race on the Gold Coast is worth 150.

Owen says the situation reminds him of 2010 when he was co-driving in the Team Vodafone Holden Commodore with Jamie Whincup, who was battling Dick Johnson Racing's James Courtney for the championship.

While Courtney was actually leading Whincup in the pointscore at that time, Owen says the philosophy he and Whincup adopted is the same as what he and Winterbottom will need to aim for.

"We still tried to win but we also tried not to bin it," Owen told v8supercars.com.au. "I think Frosty is in the same situation here. He is not just going to roll around and collect the points. Obviously we are going to try and win but if it comes to it and the car is not quite there then we will bring it home.

"If we weren't in the championship hunt and the car wasn't quite there we'd try and end up on the podium or come home on a flat-top. But obviously we can't do that when you are leading the championship."

Owen's 2010 campaign with Whincup yielded second place (behind Triple Eight team-mates Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife) in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and a race win in the Gold Coast 600.

But an engine failure in the opening enduro at Phillip Island meant they were classified 29th and last and Whincup ended up missing out on the championship to Courtney in thrilling circumstances at the Sydney Olympic Park finale.

Owen acknowledges a key difference between 2010 and now - apart from Courtney leading Whincup on points - was they weren't team-mates.

"It does make a difference because back then we couldn't control what Courtney did," Owen said.

"But in this team we can control and work together on what we do. We are not going to crash into each other and we know what each other's strategies are - which could be bad and good.

"But at the end of the day it is a good problem to have to have two cars competitive. If stacking in the pits is the worst problem you are going to have all day and you finish one-two then it is a pretty good day."

Owen says he and Waters are conscious of the potentially pivotal they play in the championship chances of Winterbottom and Mostert. But he says it hasn't affected their good relationship.

"We were laughing about it saying 'we just want to drive it round and hand it back to those blokes'. If they want to bang doors, well it's their championship. Our job is to hand it back to them."

Owen, 40, has raced in the Pirtek Enduro Cup for PRA (or Ford Performance Racing as it was formerly known) for the last two years. In 2013 he finished third with Will Davison at Sandown, while his best result with Winterbottom last year was fourth in the opening race at the Castrol Edge Gold Cost 600.

One personal piece of satisfaction gleaned from last year's enduros for Owen was setting the fastest co-driver practice lap at Bathurst in the old Falcon FG. His 2:06.7774 on Friday undercut Greg Murphy's old 'Lap of the Gods' mark of 2:06.8594.

The only other co-driver to manage that was BJR's Luke Youlden, who set a 2:06.7952 in the same session in the BJR Commodore he was sharing with Fabian Coulthard.

But because the regular drivers - led by Coulthard - reset the mark into the 2:05s on green tyres on the resurfaced track on Friday afternoon, Owen and Youlden's efforts went largely unremarked.

"It was absolutely a buzz to get under that old mark and I think we were the first ones to go that quickly so it was really good," said Owen.

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