Winterbottom close to his holy grail

Never has Mark Winterbottom wanted to finish 14th more.

The V8 Supercars leader has crunched the numbers on his series lead and arrived at the magic number that will give him his first championship.

At the Sydney 500 next month, 14th or better will earn ‘Frosty’ his first title in over a decade in the sport.

After a decade of top-five finishes without claiming the major prize, Winterbottom says he’s hungry to claim the coveted car No.1 for next season’s series.

“I’m desperate for it,” he said.

“I’ve been chasing it for a long time, it’s a dream.

“The prize is huge and you’ve got one hand on it, you don’t want to lose it.”

That championship has been a long time coming.

After years of coming so close, Winterbottom has led the 2015 tour since Winton in May and looked every inch a champion-elect.

But in recent rounds, momentum has shifted from his Prodrive team to Craig Lowndes and the Red Bull Racing team.

Lowndes has raked in 244 points on Winterbottom over the last four meets to become his nearest challenger just 179 points behind.

Winterbottom said the memory of conquering Bathurst – one of his life’s great ambitions – last year was spurring him on.

“Bathurst is one and championship is another but I’ll put the championship over Bathurst any day,” he said.

“(Being car) No.1 is the holy grail.”

Lowndes surged to two race victories and a podium on Phillip Island. Winterbottom took seventh and two fourth placings.

The lack of pace in the Prodrive Falcons has brought pit lane chatter that Winterbottom could be falling apart.

“Everyone thinks you’re cracking, it’s such crap,” he said.

“I finished fourth because I’m not quick enough.

“(Phillip Island was) a good weekend given how dominant (Lowndes) was.

“He’s clearly dominated and we’ve survived … one bad mistake today we could have been a lot further down.”

Winterbottom said he had a strategy for the next fortnight between race meets to avoid the build-up of pressure.

“I’ll just play with the kids, they bring me back to reality,” he said.

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