The thought of crashing out at the Bathurst 1000 does not faze V8 Supercars series leader Mark Winterbottom any more.
Well, not this year at least.
Winterbottom admits he can afford to push his luck in Sunday’s Great Race, with the pressure on the rest of the field as they play catch-up to the 2013 Bathurst winner in the championship stakes.
Winterbottom – dubbed “Frosty” – used to rue his rotten luck at Mount Panorama, failing to reach the podium in 10 Bathurst starts before his breakthrough victory two years ago.
The lowlight came in 2007 when he led with 10 laps left only to slide off the track.
But Winterbottom believes he can afford to roll the dice at Bathurst and still keep his maiden title hopes alive despite double points on offer this weekend.
He arrived at the mountain leading the series with 2215 points – almost 200 ahead of Ford teammate and Bathurst defending champion Chaz Mostert (2017).
“If I crash trying I could be 100 points off the lead – if someone else does then they are wiped out,” Winterbottom told AAP.
“People think I am under pressure but it is a good thing.
“I won’t do anything stupid, but that’s what you have to do to win it anyway.”
Winterbottom sounded his intentions by staying within sight of Holden’s record breaking Fabian Coulthard on Thursday.
Coulthard (two minutes 05.47 seconds) broke his own record for fastest ever V8 lap around the mountain.
Winterbottom (2:05.57) was second fastest with fellow Ford driver David Reynolds (2:05.73) not far behind.
In an ominous warning, Winterbottom said his Ford had more in reserve.
“It was not the best lap, I thought I had quite a bit in it,” he said.
“We will have a good crack at pole. I feel confident.”
Winterbottom’s sensational finish to practice was in contrast to the start.
With co-driver Steve Owen, Winterbottom could manage only the 15th fastest time in the first of three practice sessions on Thursday.
In contrast his Ford teammate Mostert (2:06.32) clocked the fastest time ever set in an opening session at Mount Panorama.
“It probably demoralises you a bit,” Winterbottom said of Mostert’s opening salvo.
“But everyone gets carried away with the hype of the first session.
“I hopped out with 10 minutes to go because I didn’t like the car and needed changes.
“Instead of putting tyres on and trying to do a hero lap I let Steve have a go to have a feel of it.
“When he rolled out in the next session he confirmed we were better – that was the smarter way to do it.”