The script was perfect as Sydneysiders filled all three places on the race two podium at the Sydney Telstra 500 to bring an uncanny result to the biggest sporting event of the year in Australia's largest city.
In front of a huge Sunday crowd of 61,053 – making for a massive three-day event crowd of 184,856 – TeamVodafone's Jamie Whincup was officially crowned as the 2009 V8 Supercar champion despite finishing 14th on a tough day at the office. At the head of the field, meanwhile, James Courtney saw off second-placed Michael Caruso and third-placed Mark Winterbottom to take the silverware. All three confess to being 'locals' of the Sydney Telstra 500 track, as Courtney was born and bred in Penrith, Caruso in Collaroy and Winterbottom in Doonside.
“This could have been the combined districts karting club championship 1992,” Courtney smiled, “We have all been racing against each other since we were seven. It makes it all that more special knowing you grew up just half an hour down the road here.”
Courtney gave his Jim Beam outfit great reward for an up and down season, and has now won at both new street track events in 2009 – the Dunlop Townsville 400 and the Sydney Telstra 500.
“We go into the Christmas break with a win after a tough year, and it's a nice little present to show them that we can," he admitted, "That gives us great confidence going into next year.”
Whincup sealed the 2009 championship on Saturday so the final result of the year didn't matter, but moving to Holden from Ford in 2010 is something he sees as the next great challenge.
“That was definitely the toughest race of the year without a doubt,” Whincup said, “This trophy means everything to me, I'm very glad to deliver Ford the manufacturers' trophy as it means a lot to them and, of course, the Ford fans.
“I just do the best I can, I am only one of the team. I work hard for the team, hard for my family and hard for the people that support me. The biggest challenge is no-one has won a championship with both Ford and Holden – that's by far the biggest challenge out there. Your motivation comes to you, you don't go looking for it. It could be something in the press or something you encounter in life but definitely the motivation is to win a championship in both makes. It's a huge deal."
Whincup also said he planned to stick around for a while in the V8 Supercar Championship Series.
“You look at Valentino Rossi, Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer – they back up year after year," he noted, "I'm not getting too far ahead of myself, but the motivation will be similar.”
Whincup admitted that he was in awe of the circuit built around the famous Sydney Olympic Park.