With a break between Winton and Darwin, supercars.com is analysing the drivers’ results and performances in this first part of the season. The racing is the closest in history, with nine different winners in 11 races.
Mark Winterbottom, The Bottle-O Racing
Engineer: Jason Gray
Average qualifying position: 4.5 Average finishing position: 6.8 Championship position: 1 Points to leader: - Wins: 1 Pole positions: 2
Best result: Perth Sunday, 200km race win.
Winterbottom held on to the soft tyre superbly to complete two stops, edging competitors who opted for three at the abrasive Barbagallo Raceway.
Low point: Perth Saturday, finishing 22nd
Called it his ‘worst day in a while’ – started fifth, but lost time in the pits after Craig Lowndes hit one of his tyres laid out in pit lane. He ran off track and had a collision with Dale Wood, prompting another pit stop and costing valuable time.
For: Winterbottom has finished better than the car he has had in some cases, bringing home good hauls of points. Winton is a fine example – he finished second despite saying on the broadcast “a podium today was probably unrealistic” after qualifying 10th.
Saturday in Perth and Sunday qualifying at Winton showed even the top operators have their bad moments – right now Frosty is keeping them to a minimum. He's leading after getting through his worst track on the calendar the Clipsal 500.
He’s racing with a champion’s resolve – door-to-door with Shane van Gisbergen in Tasmania and refusing to make a mistake when pressured by Fabian Coulthard at Winton.
The next two tracks, Darwin and Townsville, have been strong for Winterbottom in the past and he can’t head there in a better position than the lead.
Against: Has dropped back from his qualifying position on eight occasions, and moved forward just three times. Hasn’t converted either of his two pole positions to a win.
The team: Winterbottom has praised second year engineer Gray more than once for pulling a strong strategy out of a poor situation, and the team has been able to improve overnight when the car wasn’t to Frosty’s liking early in the weekend. Pit stops have been quick and sharing with Cameron Waters rather than Chaz Mostert has meant no double stacking for him this season.
Is the team a potential weakness given its reputation for making mistakes under pressure? Last year’s championship and the start to this season show Prodrive has improved that aspect.