Winterbottom reflects on 'emotional' Tickford call
Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
By Mitchell Adam
Mark Winterbottom acknowledges the decision to leave Tickford Racing at the end of 2018, after 13 seasons, was an "emotional" one to make.
Winterbottom joined what was then Ford Performance Racing in 2006 aged 24, following two seasons with Larkham Motor Sport, and is now one of Supercars' elder statesmen.
The team has been through three names during Winterbottom's stay, which has netted 38 race wins including its first Bathurst 1000 victory in 2013, above with Steven Richards, and its sole championship in '15.
"It's obviously an emotional thing when you leave somewhere you've worked for the last 13 years," he said.
"And it's not a job that you just rock up to and go home, you put a lot of heart and soul and effort into it.
"First of all, [you] make the decision that you're not there; and that's me and the team, we mutually agreed on it, it's not just one side.
"It's nice that's out of the way. The team environment's still good, it's not like you're coming in and there's dramas.
"You don't forget the history and the good moments you've had. It has been a great journey we've had.
"When you look at the podiums and all of that sort of stuff – 130-odd podiums, pole positions, Bathurst and a championship – you don't win that if you don't have respect for each other and have a great history.
"It's nice that we shook hands, there's been no dramas and you just get on with it."
Winterbottom had largely been expected to stay with Tickford until talk of a move to Charlie Schwerkolt's Team 18 burst into life at Bathurst last month.
He drew a comparison with Jamie Whincup's tenure with Triple Eight, which also started in 2006 but now includes owning a stake in the team.
"It's emotional," he added. "When you work somewhere it's hard to walk away.
"Jamie's been at Triple Eight as long as I have [been at Tickford] and he's that passionate he's invested in the business.
"It's very hard to walk away after 13 years. It's how it is, you try and hang on and hang on, and there's a point you've got to make a call because next season turns up pretty damn quick.
"It'll be sad when you rock up next year and not walk in, because the guys are not just workers, they become family.
"That's probably the saddest part, but life moves on and you look for new challenges."
The Bottle-O Falcon was third-fastest at Pukekohe on Friday
Winterbottom noted "a change is sometimes good" and that he has a preferred 2019 outcome but "‘til pen’s put on paper, nothing’s ever confirmed in this sport".
He said the reaction from fans in the first 24 hours since the announcement, both online and at Pukekohe on Friday, was something he'd appreciated.
"There's nothing more complimenting than someone wearing your gear and showing their support for you," he said.
"They're passionate people, it's nice that they want you to stay.
"It's like footy, or anything, you want your team to win but it's nice that if you're not winning they still want you to stay and work with you and get the most out of you.
"It's been humbling, the response, but you'll get pros and cons to everything. But it's been good, the reception.
"Even people wearing my shirt today coming up, 'we'll support you, we like you' and all that sort of stuff, it's been good."