Motorsport: Whincup on trophy charge

By Eric Thompson

Mark Winterbottom's Ford Falcon performing in the Gold Coast 600 in October, which was event 12 of the 2012 Australian V8 Supercar Champion Series. Photo / EDGE Photographics
Mark Winterbottom's Ford Falcon performing in the Gold Coast 600 in October, which was event 12 of the 2012 Australian V8 Supercar Champion Series. Photo / EDGE Photographics

V8 Supercar driver Jamie Whincup might just be able to add a fourth championship trophy to his cupboard this weekend at the penultimate round of the series at Winton Motor Raceway.

The Triple Eight driver has an almost unassailable lead over FPR's Mark Winterbottom and only needs to score four points more than the Ford driver over the two races to grab the title, such is his 296-point buffer.

It's been a great championship battle this year and a fitting end to the V8 car, as next year sees the introduction of the new Car Of The Future model.

While nearly 300 points might seem a huge lead, Whincup would only have to get pinged with a penalty, or have a (highly unlikely) mechanical mishap, for Winterbottom to move ahead. It would certainly make for lively racing at the last round of the championship on the streets of Homebush, Sydney.

Although it's FPR's home test track, Winterbottom has yet to win a race at Winton and has only one podium finish - second in 2009.

He has undeniable pace around the circuit, having posted times fast enough to put him on pole three times and qualify inside the top 10 every time since 2006.

After missing a trick by not eating into Whincup's lead in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, Winterbottom needs to be on a charge this weekend.

He's undeniably quick and has been a championship contender not finishing outside the top five in the series since joining FPR. Now's the time, though, to push on and get his first title.

"This weekend I just have to try and win races," said Winterbottom. "It is a big points gap to close but I just have to focus not on the championship, but on just trying to get the best result possible.

"Winton is our home test track so we know it very well and if we can win the last four races of the year it would be the best way to finish off especially with the last year with the current car.

"We've had a lot of success with these cars so it would be nice to send them off with a few wins."

Winterbottom has won three times this season. He has 17 podium finishes, which is second only to Whincup who has 22, although he hasn't actually won a race since Phillip Island back in May.

The other three drivers inside the top five on the points table - Craig Lowndes, Will Davison and New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen - may be out of championship contention, but they will have ideas of their own.

The gap from Winterbottom to Lowndes is only 93 points with Davison a further 192 back, so they'll be out to prove a point. The rest of the field will also be wanting to put on a good show at the pointy end of the season to prove they'll be in good nick for 2013.

TeamVodafone could seal the 2012 Champion Team Award at Winton and win the title for the fourth time in five seasons. They have a 513-point lead over FPR and will clinch the team's championship if they leave Winton 576 points or more in front of FPR with only the Sydney Telstra 500 remaining.

The maximum any team can score in a race at Winton, or Sydney Olympic Park, is 288 points, with 150 for a victory and 138 for a second place.

Davison leads the fight for the ARMOR ALL Pole Position Award - which sees the driver with the most poles for 2012 receive a $25,500 prize.

He took three poles in Abu Dhabi to move his season tally to eight, which is two clear of Whincup and means he and Whincup are the only drivers able to win the award.

- NZ Herald

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