Supercars competition spurs Whincup
As his last-gasp 2017 championship victory disappears into the rear-instagram view mirror, Jamie Whincup is revved up by the strength and depth of competition as he prepares to defend his Supercars crown.
The seven-time champion says last year’s thrilling championship chase, with five drivers in title contention going into the final round in Newcastle, reflects what motivates him most.
Whincup emerged with the crown after nearest rival Scott McLaughlin copped a post-race penalty in the season finale.
It’s a finish Whincup says he still struggles to describe.
As this year’s championship starts this weekend at the Adelaide 500, Whincup is expecting McLaughlin and his rivals to again deliver a withering assault to his status as the sport’s No.1.
«If anything, the target’s definitely bigger,» Whincup told AAP ahead of the season-opening Adelaide 500.
«I just love the simple fact of going again and trying to cross the finish line before anyone else.
«The competition is what motivates me. No doubt the competition will be stronger than it ever has been. That’s enough motivation for us to give it all we’ve got and try to get there.»
As well as Whincup and McLaughlin, the Supercars’ field contains a clutch of drivers ready to stake claims to the 2018 title.
Whincup’s teammate and 2016 champion Shane Van Gisbergen was a double race winner last year in Adelaide and the relationship between the two Red Bull Racing stars will be constantly under scrutiny.
Another former champion, Mark Winterbottom, is desperate to get back in the winner’s circle after missing out last year, while his Tickford Racing stablemates Chaz Mostert, Cam Waters and rookie New Zealander Richie Stanaway are three of the best young guns in the field.
McLaughlin’s DJR Team Penske teammate Fabian Coulthard will be intent on proving last year’s title tilt wasn’t a flash in the pan. The 2010 champion James Courtney is the man leading a revitalised charge from former Holden-factory team Walkinshaw Andretti Autosport — flush with new international partners.
Whincup’s biggest challenge, in the opening rounds at least, might be his own car.
This year brings the introduction of the next generation ZB Commodore for all Holden teams on the grid.
Red Bull Racing’s parent company Triple Eight Race Engineering has developed the racing model of the ZB, which has a sleek coupe/hatchback body shape.
«The car moves through the air slightly differently, which is enough to make it quite challenging for us — especially to be fast at round one,» Whincup said.
«We’ve got some work to do to try to make sure we come out of the box hard and hit the ground running.»
The Adelaide 500 begins on Friday with practice before two 250km street circuit races on Saturday and Sunday.