This weekend’s Bathurst 12 Hour will influence whether Supercars' most decorated driver Jamie Whincup looks to pursue more GT racing opportunities overseas.
Having concentrated almost solely on Supercars since making his full-time debut in 2003, the six-time champion is gearing up for his first GT3 outing at Bathurst.
Whincup is sharing Maranello Motorsport’s Ferrari 488 with his Supercars team-mate Craig Lowndes and factory ace Toni Vilander.
Maranello Motorsport’s Ferrari 488 that Whincup will share with T8 teammate Lowndes this weekend.
The entry will be bolstered by several Triple Eight staff including the Supercars squad’s manager Mark Dutton, engineer Grant McPherson and mechanic Ty Freele.
A six-time Supercars champion, Whincup says he is unsure whether GT racing will provide the same satisfaction that success in the touring car category has delivered.
“This weekend is all about getting a taste of GTs and seeing if it’s for me in the future,” Whincup told Supercars.com.
“If I enjoy it I’ll do more but if it’s a bad experience I won’t.
“For me the competition and the human element is really what I’m looking at.
“What I’m used to is everyone grabbing the same car, going flat-out and generally the driver and team that’ve done the best job on the day wins the race.
“That’s what’s massively appealing to me about Supercars and I’m hoping I get that similar buzz with the 12 Hour this weekend.”
Whincup has previously declared interest in running selected GT events once his Supercars career finishes, but remains hesitant over dovetailing the two disciplines.
His Supercars team-mate Shane van Gisbergen has successfully combined Supercars and GT programs, but Whincup remains wary of spreading himself too thin.
“Gizzy and I are different people at different stages of life,” said Whincup, who last year opened a combined coffee shop and car wash business on the Gold Coast.
“The Supercars responsibility is big for me and I’ve got a lot going on outside of motorsport.
“I’m never bored, I’m not actively looking for more racing and if anything I’ve got too much going on in my life.
“I feel that there are opportunities out there I could grab if I was chasing them, but at the moment I’m not chasing.
“I’ll just play it by ear and see what unfolds. If I enjoy this weekend and the right opportunities come up, you never say never.”
The move to an all-Pro class for outright honours at the 12 Hour this year has also helped lure Whincup’s Supercars rival Mark Winterbottom to the event for the first time.
While the BMW-mounted Winterbottom has undergone an extensive testing program across three circuits, Whincup has just five laps of Phillip Island under his belt in the Ferrari.
Scheduling issues stopped Whincup and Lowndes from running at Challenge Bathurst late last year, while a two-day test at the Island in January was curtailed by gearbox problems.
“I expect I’ll still be getting up to speed on Sunday,” said Whincup pragmatically.
“Like anything, it’ll be easy to get to 95 percent but finding the other five to battle the blokes who are in the cars all the time will be hard work.
“There’s no way I’ll be straight on Gizzy’s pace.
“From the laps I did, I can say that I really enjoyed the downforce,” he added.
“It’s not something I want to see in Supercars, but it does make you smile when you jump in a high downforce car and can corner that bit quicker.
“I haven’t had a good tyre or anything yet, so it’s really all going to happen at Bathurst.”