Six-time Supercars Champion Jamie Whincup has his eyes on the prize this season after missing out on the last two consecutive championship wins.
With teammate Shane van Gisbergen taking out the 2016 title and long-time rival Mark Winterbottom winning the previous year, it is the first time since Whincup’s run of success he has missed two championships in a row.
While he says a seventh would only be “a number” his self-belief has not wavered as he looks to overturn what he sees as unlucky 50/50s from last year.
“I wouldn’t take up one of the best seats in the category if I didn’t think I was going to be able to win,” Whincup said at the Red Bull Holden Racing Team launch in Melbourne on Thursday.
“The day I think I’m not going to win I’ll hand it over to some young kid.
“The car speed at the end of the year was fantastic, I’m ready to go, Shane’s ready to go. I’m going to represent the brand … we’re going to make sure we do the best job that we can.”
Whincup believes Triple Eight will have the goods again this season – after finishing 1-2-4 in the drivers’ championship with third car Craig Lowndes in the mix – and while he doesn’t believe in luck, says only small things fell the wrong way for them last year.
“I feel like we have all the tools in the tool box, so to speak, to be able to do the job – it’s just a matter of probably being a little bit more strategic.
“Hopefully those 50/50s that didn’t go the right way last year, hopefully we can work a little bit harder and do a better job so we are on the right side of the 50/50 calls.”
Whincup made huge headlines at Bathurst after a controversial late penalty prompted the team to appeal the result, though TEKNO’s Will Davison and Jonathon Webb remained the winners.
The 1000 has been the blotch on Whincup’s copybook over the past few years, his last win in 2012, and while it’s clear the record irks Whincup, he prefers not to talk up his stocks.
“I don’t want to make any big statements, but anyone who watched the championship last year – I lost a lot of points through the mid three-quarter mark through the championship. That really cost us.
“As I said, I don’t believe in luck, you make your own luck – and we’ll try and work a bit harder to be a bit luckier.”
“We’ve done it before certainly with the change of one manufacturer to another, and one brand to another – and every team has done it with the ‘old gen’ to ‘new gen’ car. If anything we are probably more experienced than anyone to be able to juggle that looking at ‘18 and still focusing on ’17.
“So it’s up to really good management – and we’ve got the best management around.”
It’s a new approach to the season for Whincup who will take on the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour for the first time before the Supercars season kicks off. He reunites with Lowndes and Mount Panorama and feels this time he’s found the right way to get involved.
“I’ve always had interest in the 12 Hour, I just wanted to wait for the right opportunity and I felt the opportunity with T8 turning up with Maranello was the right one,” he said.
“We had a tough start though with two-day test we completed about 10 laps, so a really tough start to that – but that’s the way it goes nothing is ever perfect in motorsport.
“I’ll head down and potentially just use the 12 Hour as an experience opportunity rather than trying to really show my performance so to speak.”
Teammate van Gisbergen races around the world when he isn’t in a Supercar – but Whincup denied that had any impact on the decision.
“No, it hasn’t, no – there is nothing he did that I didn’t already know.
“Life is about balance and everyone balances thing differently.”