Jamie Whincup has vowed to fight Red Bull Racing team-mate Shane van Gisbergen for the 2016 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship until it is “mathematically impossible” to win.
Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell finished third yesterday in the opening 300km race of the Castrol Gold Coast 600, while van Gisbergen and Alex Premat overcame a 10 second penalty for a pace car infraction to win.
As a result, van Gisbergen has extended his driver’s championship lead over Whincup from 139 to 160 points. There are 750 points available over the remaining seven championship races.
“There is no point worrying about it, all we can do is go hard and see what happens,” the six-time champion told supercars.com.
“Sandown and Bathurst hurt us. We had 150 points lead going into Sandown and ‘boom’ drive-through, ‘boom’ points penalty and it’s hit-hit.
“But that’s okay, it’s not all over. We won’t give it away until it is mathematically impossible.
“We will keep doing exactly what we have done, keep it clean and be a challenger.
“We probably didn’t have quite the speed advantage over this car [van Gisbergen/Premat], but that’s a track-to-track thing. We had crazy speed at Sandown and Bathurst and he’s a little quicker this weekend.
“But you get that as the year goes on and we just have to be there and maximise. The 10 second penalty could have thrown them back, but they maximised and deserved the win.”
Whincup backed the strategy that saw Dumbrell complete the majority of the laps in #88 and drop crucial time to van Gisbergen when they went head-to-head.
Van Gisbergen scythed through pack and gained a six second lead over Dumbrell on fresher tyres, ensuring he could pit, refuel, take his 10 second time penalty and re-emerge in front of Whincup, who had a longer refuel time when he took over the #88 Holden Commodore VF for the final stint.
“We led the race, he was in seventh or eighth with only five seconds better fuel and the thing was he came through and passed the field,” Whincup explained.
“It was him driving against co-drivers and then getting six seconds up the road that won him the race … by taking a few risks, getting to the lead and being fast.
“But if there had been a safety car before he passed us then ‘boom’ he would have stacked. We will debrief, but did we do the right strategy? Yes, because we were the second car and we got track position.”
Whincup confirmed there was debate about whether he should start the car rather than Dumbrell, but that was rejected. Among the front-running cars the only lead driver to start was ninth qualifier Mark Winterbottom. He and co-driver Dean Canto ended up fourth.
“But a safety car at the wrong time screws them over,” said Whincup. “It is real risky, there is a period for them where is a safety car falls it is a real disaster. It didn’t fall for them, it was okay, but it was too much risk.”
Whincup revealed the Bathurst appeal saga had affected him leading into the Gold Coast, but made it clear he wasn’t using that as any sort of excuse.
“I’m not fresh,” he admitted, “but sport is about distractions. There are so many distractions that come along the way and that’s just another one. Not ideal, but you just have to deal with it.
“I have been hanging for this race because now there is another set of distractions and everyone has forgotten about Bathurst, which is great.
“Now we are all talking about Garth and Fabs [the late-race collision between Garth Tander and Fabian Coulthard]. I have been hanging to get to this moment so we can forget about Bathurst and just keep moving on.”