V8 Supercars championship leader Mark Winterbottom has a secret weapon in the fitness department at AFL club Essendon.
And no, it’s not what you’re thinking.
As the championship turns to the make or break endurance races, Winterbottom is embracing a fitness regime he says has got him to the top and hopes will keep him there.
He shares a trainer with the Bombers, and he’s known about it over the last month.
“He’s been hurting me,” he confesses.
“I’ve never trained so hard in my life.”
Winterbottom says in preparation for the endurance races – the 500 kilometre race at Sandown this weekend, the 1000 kilometre Bathurst slog at Sandown and then 600 kilometres over two races on the Gold Coast – he’s stepped up his off-track work.
Under the supervision of fitness guru Paul Turk, Winterbottom says he’s been subjected to higher reps, more endurance training and he can feel the results.
“I feel like I could rip the wheel off when I’m heading into turn one at Sandown,” he told AAP.
“It’s nice to know you’re strong, but it’s been really tough, brutal.”
When he arrives at Sandown, Winterbottom will do so with a 174-point lead over his nearest rival, teammate Chaz Mostert.
Further back in third is the leading Holden of Craig Lowndes, 255 points off the pace, while he owns a 449-point lead over four-time reigning champion Jamie Whincup.
Having led the championship before without ending up with the main prize, Winterbottom certainly isn’t looking too far ahead.
“I’m in the right spot but it’s not December, I wish it was December,” he said.
“(In the Enduros) there’s massive gains but massive losses if it goes pear-shaped.
“So it’s high-risk, high-reward.”