Mark Winterbottom believes the pressure to win this year’s V8 Supercars championship is now on his Ford teammate Chaz Mostert – not himself.
Mostert threw his hat in the ring with two victories, a podium and a pair of pole positions at Sydney Motorsport Park over the weekend.
He entered the round third on the driver’s standings and trailing Winterbottom by 292 points.
He cut that back to just 174 points and now sits second overall, bumping Holden veteran Craig Lowndes out of the top two in the process.
“The pressure’s on him to win it now,” Winterbottom told AAP.
“He’s the favourite.
“Either way, it’s good that the team’s going well.”
Winterbottom started the weekend well, finishing second in the opening sprint.
But he slipped further away as it went on, crossing eighth in the second sprint and 12th on Sunday.
Lowndes had a worse time at the Eastern Creek track, with a fifth, 12th and 19th.
The rivals came together midway through Sunday’s 50-lap race in a clash that left Winterbottom’s FG X Falcon with bent steering.
Prodrive Racing Australia lodged a protest with stewards over the incident, which will be heard at Sandown next month.
“He has to get done,” said Winterbottom, adding that was the first damage he’s had all season.
“‘Oh, it was an accident’, doesn’t really cut it.”
If Lowndes is found guilty and cops a points penalty, he could be overtaken by a third PRA driver in David Reynolds, who is just 27 points back in fourth.
The 2013 Bathurst winner said it could end up with three cars fighting for the title.
“But it’s a long championship, we’ll see what happens.”
PRA have made it clear there are no team orders, meaning Winterbottom and Mostert are free to battle it out on-track.
But the pair have gone to lengths to hose down any suggestions of a rift building between them.
“He’s a good guy,” said Winterbottom of his 23-year-old teammate.
“You can’t not like someone because they beat you; it’s not the way it goes.
“The car’s suiting him – he really enjoys the car and I’m not that comfortable.
“He’s got the speed, he’s doing a good job.
“You’ve got to work together to try and make sure we’re 1-2. That’s probably the main focus, not getting drawn into each other and then the other blokes come past you.”
The three-race endurance series begins at Sandown from September 11.
TOP 10 CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS (points)
1. Mark Winterbottom – Ford (1915)
2. Chaz Mostert – Ford (1741)
3. Craig Lowndes – Holden (1660)
4. David Reynolds – Ford (1633)
5. Fabian Coulthard – Holden (1580)
6. Jamie Whincup – Holden (1466)
7. Garth Tander – Holden (1394)
8. James Courtney – Holden (1373)
9. Shane van Gisbergen – Holden (1362)
10. Rick Kelly – Nissan (1145)