Mark Winterbottom needs to abandon his softly, softly V8 Supercars strategy and win the championship this weekend at Phillip Island, says five-time champion Mark Skaife.
With only the helter-skelter Sydney street circuit remaining in the 2015 series after the coastal track, Skaife has urged the career Ford man to be bold when he arrives on the island.
“We’ve seen over the years anything can happen in Sydney,” Skaife told Fox Sports.
Winterbottom’s strong points lead means he can win the championship with consistent driving and top-six finishes at Phillip Island and Sydney – even if his closest competitors David Reynolds or Craig Lowndes win every race.
With 300 points available at both meets, Winterbottom is 239 points ahead of Reynolds and a further point back is Lowndes.
Driving to keep his car on the road and not for victories appeared to be the Prodrive Racing strategy in the last race meet at Pukekohe, New Zealand.
Jamie Whincup noted Winterbottom’s efforts to stay out of the white-hot battle for race wins, saying he was clearly racing “strategically”.
But Skaife believes Winterbottom could save himself the stress of taking the championship to the Sydney street circuit by shifting gears this weekend.
“Winterbottom has got to (improve his series lead by) 62 points to be 300 points clear going into Sydney,” he said.
Whincup (2014), Rick Kelly (2006) and Garth Tander (2007) have all taken championships on Phillip Island over the last decade.
For Winterbottom to follow in their footsteps, Skaife says he won’t be able to fall back on support from his team.
Chaz Mostert is sidelined and Cam Waters deputising, while Reynolds is being moved on from the team in 2016.
“You need teammates or other people around you to help,” he said.
“It puts a lot of pressure on Cam Waters being up there … (and) why would Dave be loyal?
“You’re the lone ranger when you’re out there by yourself – it’s hard work.”