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Winterbottom: Whincup not invincible
26 February 2010
Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom is certain there is some kryptonite to blunt the force of Jamie Whincup in the V8 Supercar Championship Series.
On a day when the King Hamad ibn Isa Al-Khalifa and Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa of Bahrain mingled openly with teams and drivers on the grid, Whincup stormed the field for the third straight time in the first race of the Gulf Air Desert 400 in Bahrain today.
With Winterbottom hanging in for second and Whincup's TeamVodafone partner Craig Lowndes third, Winterbottom believes his time will come after a second and a third in the opening Abu Dhabi round then a second in Bahrain.
“The day will come. At the moment we will keep tuning what we have got, keep bagging points, keep learning and when the time comes it will come quickly,” Winterbottom said.
“At the moment two seconds and a third is a great start. We are definitely stronger than we were at the start of last year so who knows? You can't control how well the other teams are going. Jamie is having a great run so to finish second when he is best on the day is all you can do.
“He is on top of his game in a team with the momentum they have got. I have the best engineer in pit lane so we will rattle heads and close the gap. I have got full faith that we can do the job.”
It was close to the perfect day for Whincup when he claimed Armor All pole position in the Armor All top ten shootout after being set a huge challenge firstly by Winterbottom and then SP Tools Racing's Shane Van Gisbergen.
“Of course every Championship win is special in its own way,” Whincup said. “Today was a great day for TeamVodafone and myself. Pole this morning was definitely one of my best. The pressure you have got going on to go out last to beat an already cracking lap is hard work.
“But still at the moment we are unsure, we are going into races unsure of how the car will perform and we take an educated guess. So far we have made the right calls but we will face our challenges during the year.
“I know this Championship is going to come down to two points at the end of the year, it always does.”
Whincup nominated Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander as the man to beat tomorrow (Saturday) in the second race. Tander finished fourth today after taking just 27 points from the first race last weekend.
“A season's personal best," Tander said. "It's not the result we'd hoped for, or what HRT as a team and our supporters wanted, but putting all things in perspective after Abu Dhabi fourth's better than nothing. It's important that we don't get carried away and just keep chipping away.”
Lowndes came from eighth to second after a sloppy top ten shootout, leaving himself the hard work of having to work through the field one by one.
“I've got to get the shootout right,” said Lowndes. “We made a little error and I didn't drive the car that well. It's one of those things. You've got to make the best of a bad situation. It's a matter of managing the tyres, harass the guys in front and find a way through.”
Once again Whincup made a clean start and cleared away early. Winterbottom followed after nabbing Van Gisbergen from his first appearance on the front row of the grid. The opening laps were willing down the field with several altercations.
For Van Gisbergen the day was still a great success: “It's great to get my first front row start, it's great for SP Tools and SBR,” Van Gisbergen said. “The track changed so much between the qualifying and shootout sessions, I think it was Will Davison that set a low five in the times and we all thought he would be up the front but the track was a lot better for our car.
“We made a couple of changes between the sessions and that helped us. It's been a great start to the season but it's the team that has stepped up, I'm just the last piece of the puzzle. They worked so hard over the off season and made some great developments to the car.”
As he did in the race Whincup was ice cool in the top ten shootout as the last car out and a mammoth job ahead to beat the cracking time of Van Gisbergen.
“When I saw Mark record a 2.05.8 I thought that was right up there,” he said. “It puts a lot of pressure on when the other drivers leave you to make you go three or four tenths of a second quicker than qualifying,” Whincup described.
“I could see on my dash that I was making good time. I didn't know what Shane's lap was so I just kept going hard until the end. You don't get used to this feeling, it's very special.”
Van Gisbergen finished the day fifth, Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney sixth and SuperCheap Auto's Russell Ingall seventh. The second and final race in Bahrain starts at 3.30pm local time tomorrow.
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