Qualifying – let alone winning – at the Bathurst 1000 was the last thing on Ford gun Mark Winterbottom’s mind in the wake of teammate Chaz Mostert’s horror crash.
But spurred on by Mostert’s plea to claim pole on Saturday for the Great Race, Winterbottom said their Prodrive Racing team were more determined than ever to grab a third straight Bathurst 1000 title.
Defending champion Mostert underwent surgery on Friday night on a broken wrist and leg suffered in his second spectacular Mount Panorama crash in three years.
Seven officials were forced to jump for their lives as Mostert’s Ford pinballed off walls approaching Forrest’s Elbow at up to 170kph before crashing into their track-side enclosure.
Three of the officials were injured.
“It definitely reminds you how dangerous this joint is,” Winterbottom told the V8 Supercars website.
“It’s just a reality check really. It’s about the big picture.”
However Winterbottom wasn’t so sombre after receiving a message from Mostert in his Orange hospital bed.
“One of the things he said just as they souped him up with morphine was sorry to the guys that he crashed and make sure Frosty (Winterbottom) gets pole,” Winterbottom said.
“That’s his true character.”
Former Bathurst champ and V8 series leader Winterbottom said he was now unfazed by the prospect of launching another raid on the mountain despite his friend’s crash.
“It’s what Bathurst is,” he said.
“You don’t want to see your friends hurt … but that’s the big picture – it hits home how brutal it is.”
Prodrive Racing have won the last two Bathurst titles – Winterbottom’s maiden 2013 triumph and Mostert’s last-to-first effort last year.
Yet Mostert has not had much qualifying luck for the team on the mountain.
He crashed at practice and missed qualifying on Bathurst 1000 debut in 2013.
And Mostert did not take part in last year’s qualifying session after being penalised for passing under red flags.
He started the 2014 Great Race from the back of the grid but bounced back to seal his incredible win with co-driver Paul Morris.
“He’s just destined not to qualify for this race,” Prodrive Racing team principal Tim Edwards told Speedcafe website.
“(But) he’s in good spirits. His comment to me was good job we signed that contract a couple of months ago.”
Mostert re-signed with Prodrive Racing in August until the end of 2019.
Mostert had hoped to make a move for the championship at Bathurst, which offers double points.
He was sitting second in the V8 championship standings, less than 200 points behind Winterbottom.