He’s exorcised some of the demons from last year and now Ford’s Mark Winterbottom is talking up his chances of finally landing the V8 Supercars championship.
Winterbottom has stormed into a 248-point lead in the championship standings after claiming back-to-back wins in this weekend’s Townsville 400.
The Prodrive Racing Australia ace backed up his victory on Saturday by claiming his sixth race win of the year in Sunday’s 200km race at the Reid Park street circuit.
Heading into last year’s event in Townsville, Winterbottom held a 161-point championship lead.
Holden’s Jamie Whincup claimed two of the three races at last year’s event, the start of a charge which would eventually lead to his sixth championship as Winterbottom failed to secure another win all season.
Now, armed with two street circuit race wins and a healthier championship lead, Winterbottom says he can start thinking confidently about the remainder of the year.
“I think we can win anywhere after this round,” Winterbottom said.
“This was the bogey one for me, to come out of this.
“We’ll keep working and Homebush, Gold Coast now don’t seem as frightening as what they did four days ago, before we started the weekend.”
Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney would’ve set nerves jangling in his garage as he tangled with teammate Garth Tander in the race’s closing stages, but the pair avoided a repeat of the embarrassing crashes from the past two events.
Courtney would eventually overhaul Ford’s David Reynolds on his way to a second-place finish, while Reynolds completed a strong weekend with his second podium by coming home third.
Whincup, still without a win since March, at least took something away from the weekend with a fifth-place finish but he remains in eighth on the standings, a whopping 391-points behind Winterbottom.
His teammate Craig Lowndes overcame a 23rd-place starting position to come home ninth and regain second on the title standings, but he has conceded 153 points to Winterbottom over the weekend.
“For where we started, and to finish ninth, we achieved our goal to be in the top 10,” Lowndes said.
“It would have been nice to be further up the field and hunt down a few more guys, but ninth was a good enough result today.”
Holden’s Fabian Coulthard, who started the day second on the standings, had to settle for a 13th-place finish after a pitlane penalty ruined his race.
It was also a bittersweet day for Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin, who claimed his first pole position of the year earlier in the afternoon but was forced to retire after just 21 laps when he suffered a mechanical failure.
The V8s next event is at Queensland Raceway from July 31 to August 2.