Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Motorsport: Whincup driven by his dad

Jamie Whincup with his late father David.
Photo / Getty Images
Jamie Whincup with his late father David. Photo / Getty Images

Jamie Whincup was already one of the most driven men in motorsport but his father's untimely death this year has only strengthened his resolve to be the best.

Whincup's father David, who Jamie calls "by far the biggest influence on my career", passed away in late February after a short battle with cancer.

The three-time V8 Supercars champion, who finished second in Hamilton yesterday, admits he has struggled to cope at times but the loss has also motivated him.

Whincup raced (and won) the Clipsal 500, just days after his father's passing and was clearly emotional after the victory, which he labelled the greatest of his career.

"[Dad] was my best mate," Whincup told the Herald on Sunday. "He taught me everything I know and dedicated a lot to my career. It is my responsibility now to represent him and the Whincup brand as best I possibly can and in the way he would have wanted it to be represented."

David Whincup bought Jamie his first go-kart as a seven year old and Whincup says his father would spend most weeknights working on the kart, and every weekend at the track.

"There is a common myth in motorsport that you need wealthy parents to make it but that is far from the case with guys like myself, Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander and Mark Winterbottom," says Whincup.

"We don't come from wealthy families but what we do have is unbelievably dedicated families prepared to do anything to give us the best opportunity. Dad was a driving force behind my career year after year until I turned professional."

Even once Whincup was signed on with Garry Rogers Racing in 2003, Whincup senior still made an effort to be involved.

"Dad had the [motorsport] bug and for the first year, he came along and cooked lunch for everyone on the team," recalls Whincup.

"He put a barbecue in the back of his car and was there on practice days and race weekends."

Whincup struggled in his first full season and was dumped, managing a seat only in the endurance events (Sandown and Bathurst) in 2004.

He soon bounced back and his career has been on a steep upward trajectory since then.

The bare statistics are quite staggering; he hasn't finished out of the top two in the championship in the past five years, and on three occasions (2008, 2009, 2011) he has been top of the tree.

Before yesterday's race, Whincup had notched 71 podium finishes from 245 races, including 54 wins (third all-time behind Mark Scaife and Craig Lowndes).

He has also claimed a Bathurst hat-trick (2006-08) and twice finished second at Mount Panorama.

After a disappointing 2010, last year he won 11 races to regain the title and became the first driver in the modern era (and the first since Norm Beechy in 1970) to have won a championship with both Ford and Holden.

That record has produced phenomenal expectation, seemingly under threat as Ford Performance Racing's Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom tear up the track.

"You can't complain about expectation and pressure," says Whincup. "You work hard to get to that position and learn to deal with it once you are there. Every time I hit the track, I want to do the absolute best for myself, the team and the companies and supporters that surround that.

"The biggest thing is achieving something as a group; there is only one spot on the top of the podium and there is no greater feeling than that."

On and off the track, Whincup is famous for his attention to detail and unbending focus.

It is not quite obsessive-compulsive but he makes no apologies for being meticulous. He likes to be super-organised, whether it is around what he has for breakfast or the timing of a practice session. "I believe that if you are going to do something, do it properly no matter how big or small," says Whincup. "I try to run an organised life and think it leads to less mistakes in the future. People take the piss out of me and there is a bit of a joke here or there but until someone can prove that being unorganised and just going with the flow is better, I'll continue doing what I am doing."

While he gets some gentle ribbing from the other drivers and crew, most of the jibes come away from his job.

"My mates and girlfriend like to hassle me and have a bit of a laugh at my expense.

"As an example, if I am having them round for dinner, I'll write a quick note to myself. It only takes me 10 seconds, just to say the meat needs to go in at 6pm, the vegetables at 6.05pm and the chips at 5.50pm. I quickly write that down so I am organised and know what's going on but they think that is a bit of a joke," he says.

- Herald on Sunday

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