It’s the greatest race in Australian motorsport – and one Supercars star Jamie Whincup knows comes with every emotion imaginable.
By Matthew Clayton
This story originally appeared on redbull.com
Jamie Whincup just wants to move on; problem is, everyone (us pesky media types included) won’t let him. Ask him how many interviews he’s done before Bathurst this year that open up with what happened at Bathurst last year, and he quickly does the math. “We’ve got a 100 per cent strike rate on that one,” the six-time Supercars champ laughs, admittedly through mildly gnashed teeth. “What happened last year?” he asks, feigning forgetfulness. “I can’t remember …”.
Let’s quickly recap while Whincup averts his eyes and blocks his ears. Last year, J-Dub took the chequered flag first only to lose the victory because of a 15-second time penalty for that collision involving Scott McLaughlin and Garth Tander (which we’ll never speak of again, OK?). The year before, he was penalised for passing under safety car conditions when a win looked on, and back in 2014, he ran out of fuel on the last lap and was pipped at the post by Chaz Mostert.
The one good thing about that set of bad circumstances? As Whincup sees it, being at or near the front sure beats the hell out of the alternative. It’s a feeling he knows well, winning the 1000 four times, three with old mate Craig Lowndes (2006-07-08), and in 2012 with the man he’ll share the wheel of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore with again this weekend, Paul Dumbrell.
“I’m very proud to have been in contention for each of the last five years. A few more wins would have been nice, but hopefully we’re still in contention again this year,” Whincup says.
“In a few days’ time, there’ll be another set of scenarios or dramas that go down that everyone will be talking about – and then maybe I don’t need to re-live last year again! It’d be nice to have a ‘normal’ weekend at Bathurst for a change, not that there’s ever a ‘normal’ weekend at Bathurst. A lack of drama would be good, but you still want to be where the action is – my worst fear is not being part of where the action is.”
There’s a Great Race to win this weekend but a championship to think about, and after tyre dramas bit Whincup and RBHRT teammate Shane van Gisbergen at Sandown last month, J-Dub sits 84 points behind series leader McLaughlin with seven races left. Treading that fine line between Bathurst glory and championship consistency is one that he feels may be the biggest challenge of the entire 1000km on Sunday.
“Eighty-odd points off Scott is not where we want to be, so we do need to think championship as well, and that means having a clean run this week,” he says.
“Saying that, this is the one race where the championship, no matter where you are in it, takes a bit of a back seat mentally because of how important this race is. It’s definitely worth the risk to try to stand on that top step. A win here doesn’t come at all costs, but certainly a lot higher than anywhere else we go. Those who win it get a great reward.”
Whincup knows better than to predict anything at Bathurst with any great surety after the past three visits to The Mountain – “we’ve done it right – or wrong – pretty much every way,” he muses – but something he’s more certain about is how he’ll feel Sunday night, irrespective of the result.
When the crowds have cleared and the dust begins to settle, it’s hard not to get reflective about the race meeting that was – and with that comes a realisation that it has been a long, long week.
“Sunday is a special day for our sport, and I know I’ll be nervous,” he says of his 16th start in the 1000.
“The day you don’t get nervous is the day you don’t care enough, in my opinion. So yes, I’ve done a fair few of these, but there’ll be plenty of butterflies. And that’s good. A lot of people make a lot of sacrifices to get us into a winning position for this weekend, so you want to do it right for all of them. You feel that weight.
“By the time you get to Sunday night, you’re absolutely exhausted, completely spent regardless of how well or not you’ve gone. There’s the huge rush of the start, the race and all of the ceremony, but when you stop Sunday night, you’re just exhausted more than any other emotion. Hopefully, this time, we’re pretty happy too.”