Pressure? What pressure?
Despite being so close to a maiden V8 Supercars championship title after having his hopes dashed so often in previous years, Mark Winterbottom’s belief in his team has him confident heading into this weekend’s Gold Coast 600.
Ford Star Winterbottom has a whopping 399-point series lead from Holden’s Craig Lowndes and knows a good showing on the streets of Surfers Paradise this weekend will make it nearly impossible for anyone to overhaul him.
He says his second-place finish behind Lowndes at the recent Bathurst 1000 – following victory in the Sandown 500 – was as good as a win and says his endurance co-driver Steve Owen has played a key role in that good form.
“This weekend’s high-pressure, a lot’s going on but I’m glad I’ve got a guy that’s so low stress,” Winterbottom told AAP.
“We’re in a good position. If we can have a good run, we know we’ve got good cars, good drivers and a good team so just do what we can do to the end.
“Just maintain our form. We’re in this position because of the year we’ve had.”
Winterbottom has been the almost-man during Holden rival Jamie Whincup’s domination of V8 Supercars in recent years.
While Whincup has won six of the past seven championships, Winterbottom has finished third four times and second once in that time.
For many of those title races, Winterbottom was an early leader before being overhauled.
He says the resilience of his team in 2016 had been a key plank in making this season different.
“I feel like on any day, if you qualify 15th or something, you can bounce back,” he said.
“Previously it felt like you had to absolutely hang off it lap after lap and you made mistakes because you were driving potentially past the car.
“This year you can drive with confidence and always bounce back … that’s been the difference this year, one bad round, you’re not black armbands.”
The Gold Coast 600 starts on Friday with practice before a 250km each on Saturday or Sunday.
GOLD COAST 600 FAST FACTS
Average speed: 146km/h
Top speed: 265km/h
* Holden’s Jamie Whincup has dominated the Gold Coast event since it became an endurance event with co-drivers in 2009, winning four races.
* Current championship leader Mark Winterbottom has won twice on the streets of Surfers Paradise but not since 2011.
* In 30 races since 2002 on the Gold Coast there have been 26 featuring appearances by the safety car, with race two in 2007 the last time there wasn’t an intervention in racing due to a safety car incident.