SYDNEY, New South Wales, Australia — official series release — Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
Jamie Whincup regards a podium finish in today’s final race of 2014 at the Sydney NRMA 500 as the only appropriate way to celebrate his record-setting sixth V8 Supercars Championship.
The Red Bull Racing Australia driver does not want to be called up on to the Sydney Olympic Park podium after the 250 km mini-marathon just to be recognized as champion — he wants to be there by right, finishing in the top three.
After winning both races around the bruising concrete-lined circuit so far, he sees himself having as strong a chance as any to have his wish come true.
“It’s always nice to win the race to claim the championship – I don’t want to be greedy though,” he said. “I had a fantastic feeling coming across the line to mathematically put the championship out of the question at Phillip Island, but it’s important to me to be on the podium at least tomorrow and not be dragged up afterwards.”
“But as I said, I’m not a greedy person I will take every race as it comes so if I can be on the podium that will be a bonus.”
After a week of Marcos Ambrose mania, Whincup’s performance yesterday was testament to why he now stands alone in terms of drivers’ championships in the Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercars Championships.
In the first 125 km race he charged into the lead from the front row and then after a safety car period he wrestled the lead back from Tim Slade’s Supercheap Auto Holden Commodore VF and then sped into the distance. In the rain-shortened second race he blitzed from the second row to win out in a four-car sprint to the first corner and was never challenged again.
Whincup said he’d hardly noticed the attention being paid to Ambrose, who was having his first drive in the championship after a nine year absence, and certainly wasn’t motivated to remind the world who was the category’s leading performer.
“I haven’t noticed (the Ambrose publicity) to be honest,” he said. “I’m a little bit behind the times when it comes to the press coverage, but I will certainly catch up on it after the weekend. But, I’ve got a job to do, I’ve gotta put my head down.”
“Marcos is a draw card, it’s fantastic he’s here, it’s big for the sport and I wish him all the best. It would have been great if he was somewhere up there, but don’t worry he’ll be there next year. This weekend is an awesome weekend for him to get a feel and he’s a smart bloke, he’ll have a strategy over the break and come out firing next year.”
After going winless at Sydney Olympic Park since its 2009 debut in the championship, Whincup broke through for his first victory at the circuit in the Saturday 250 km mini-marathon last year and including yesterday’s victories has now won three of the last four races at the concrete-lined track.
“We were so close so many times, we just didn’t pull it all together – it was the end of the year, I was pretty tired and didn’t do a good job, it wasn’t through a lack of my speed or the car,” he said. “I’ve just been able to minimise the mistakes last year and today and got the results we were after.”
“But at the end of the day, I’m going to go hard to the last lap of the last race – there will be no celebrating tonight, we’ll put our head down and there’s a lot of pride on the line. We’ve got a brand to represent and we’ll try and represent them as well as we can tomorrow.”
After Saturday’s shorter races, Whincup is under no illusions about the challenge the longer race will pose today.
“It will be massive,” Whincup said, “That 125 km race one was hard. It is going to be a long day, so we will see how we go.”