Having gone five months without a win, Holden superstar Jamie Whincup admits he had fallen out of love with racing in V8 Supercars.
But the smile returned to the six-time series champion’s face on Saturday, claiming a breakthrough victory and a podium at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The last time he stood on the top step of the podium was in March in Tasmania – 15 races ago – and not since May had he even finished in the top three.
While the results do little to help his hopes of a record seventh championship in 2015, it will provide a shot in the arm for Red Bull Racing ahead of the endurance series.
Whincup’s results – third and first – push him up to sixth on the overall standings, but still 455 points adrift of Ford rival and leader Mark Winterbottom.
“Points are points, but you’re not having any fun running around mid-pack or at the back,” he said.
“We’re just trying to get the enjoyment back into motorsport for me – and with a fast car, it’s generally a bit more fun.”
Asked if that meant he hadn’t been enjoying racing in recent months, the 32-year-old replied: “Nah, not so much, running around 15th.
“It’s alright if you’ve always been running there but, when you’ve had some success for many years, it’s tough to move back.
“At the end of the day, life’s good, but it’s a little bit extra when the car’s fast.”
The win didn’t come easy, though, with Whincup’s Commodore struggling with exhaust issues.
He successfully held off Fabian Coulthard for all 16 laps of the second race, having managed to get the jump at the start on Ford’s polesitter Chaz Mostert who crossed the line in third.
“It sounded like a bit of a Massey Ferguson (tractor),” said Whincup.
“We’ve certainly done a lot of improving over the last few months and the extra pace in the car is encouraging, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Mostert had just as much success at the Eastern Creek circuit as Whincup, scoring two pole positions, a win and a podium.
It meant he leapfrogs veteran Craig Lowndes into second on the championship standings behind Prodrive Racing Australia teammate Winterbottom.
Mostert sits 267 points behind Winterbottom and nine points clear of Lowndes, who finished fifth and 10th.
Winterbottom, chasing his first title after a decade of attempts, crossed the line second and eighth in the day’s two races.
Jack Perkins, who replaced the injured James Courtney in Holden Racing Team’s No.22 Commodore, finished 19th in both sprints.
Courtney remains in hospital with two broken ribs and a pneumothorax after being struck in the chest on Friday by a metal hoarding, blown over by a low-flying Navy helicopter during a pre-practice display.
Qualifying for Sunday’s 52-lap race begins at 11.45am (AEST).