Jamie Whincup has vowed to do everything he can to help Holden teammate Craig Lowndes win this year’s V8 Supercars title – but it won’t involving taking out fierce Ford rival Mark Winterbottom.
Just 179 points separate series leader Winterbottom and Lowndes ahead of this weekend’s season-ending Sydney 500.
The pair had a slow start to the round, with both failing to finish inside the top eight in any of Friday’s three practice sessions.
Lowndes’ best was eighth, while Winterbottom’s was 10th after an early crash into a tyre barrier.
But Whincup, racing at the Sydney Olympic Park event out of contention for the first time, still believes the Prodrive Racing Australia star is firmly in the box seat to claim his maiden V8 crown.
“He wants to win the championship – he doesn’t care if he wins by three points or 3000,” the Red Bull Racing star said after finishing the day third fastest.
“He’s certainly on track to grab that No.1.”
Winterbottom will take home the crown if he finishes 14th or better in each of the weekend’s three races.
Lowndes, on the other hand, must win both 37-lap races on Saturday and the 74-lap finale on Sunday and needs Winterbottom to falter if he is to claim his fourth title but first since 1999.
A super-relaxed Whincup said while it was out of his hands, he wanted to help Lowndes get there.
“I’ll be looking after Lowndsey where I can,” he said.
“I won’t be doing anything untoward to anyone else, including car No.5 (Winterbottom).
“We’ll go there and race hard. But certainly tomorrow, I won’t be holding Craig up in any way.”
Shane van Gisbergen, who joins Whincup and Lowndes at Red Bull next season, topped the timesheets in every session on Friday.
His final lap of one minute 27.7652secs was the day’s quickest.
But unlike Whincup, he has no intention of helping – or hindering, for that matter – his future teammate this weekend.
“I’m just racing for myself,” the Kiwi said.
“If Mark or Craig is leading and I’m second, I’ll be happy to go and try and win the race and doing it cleanly. There’s no silly games on my end.
“I’ll obviously try not to ruin their championship, it’s pretty exciting for everyone, but I’ve still got my own race to win.”
Qualifying begins at 11.35am (AEDT) on Saturday.