No other event this season has had so much buildup – the atmosphere coming into the 2013 Phillip Island 360 is so tense it makes Arnie’s best bicep flex look feeble.
The Island is renowned for some make and break championship moments, so join us over the next couple of weeks as we relive some of the Red Bull Racing Australia boys’ high and lows from years gone by at the stunning Victorian circuit.
The last time V8 Supercars descended on Phillip Island Car No.1 was the victim of arguably one of the biggest T-bones in V8 Supercars history. An unassuming Jamie Whincup, in a tense the battle for the lead he’d just clinched, was keeping to himself when a flying Will Davison skidded across the grass at 200km+ and collected him in sensational fashion, rendering both their races over.
Both were in championship contention at the time and the smash allowed Mark Winterbottom to move into the championship lead*. Car No.1 engineer Mark Dutton has vivid memories of that day and is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself next weekend.
Because like last year, it’s a four-way championship battle only for one thing – it’s not May but November, and only one round remains following Phillip Island.
As such, it’s make or break for Lowndesy, J-Dub, Frosty and Davo.
“Phillip Island is going to be an interesting one,” Dutto says.
“J-Dub and Lowndesy are strong there, Frosty has had his moments and then there are guys like Courtney and Reynolds. They can’t win the championship but they want more than anything to finish the season off on a high and will do almost anything for a win. And that adds a big danger component.”
As such, Dutto has asked for a little respect from the rest of the field.
“Guys like that have the win-at-all costs mentality, which I completely understand and totally makes sense – if you can’t go for the championship you 100 per cent want to go for the race win,” Dutto continues.
“They have nothing to lose. They will take extra risks and you just hope that you’re not left in the aftermath of a silly move from a non-championship contender.
“By the same token, they’re there to race and not to be spectators and let cars fly on past as they battle for the championship. I just hope they’re respectful of the championship contenders. They don’t have to let any of us past but they should show respect to the people fighting it out. They should still try and win, and they will, but if there’s a chance, even a 50/50 chance, that they could take one of the contenders out I think they should think twice.”
It’s a nervous position for all four drivers and their respective teams to be in. Making it even more nerve-racking for Dutto and the Red Bull crew – something FPR can attest to – is that some of the biggest competition will be coming from within their own garage.
“Last year Jamie wrapped up the championship early so the last few races there were no internal team battles – it was all about Craig finishing second, which he did,” Dutto says.
“This year, it’s Jamie v Craig and Frosty v Davo and all of us against each other.
“On my side of the garage we want the No.1 car to win and on the other side of the garage they want the No.888 car to win. But overall, we want a Red Bull car to win. You don’t want to be fighting each other.
“Then you throw the Car of the Future into the mix at a track they haven’t been before, that’s just been resurfaced and who knows? There are a lot more variables than normal. It’s going to be good fun!”
*Stay tuned later this week when J-Dub talks us through that smash moment-by-moment.