We’ve packed our winter woollies and all the jackets we could find, and tomorrow we set off to chilly country Victoria where temperatures are set to drop to single digits, and ‘feels like’ -10 degrees.
A colder than cold circuit, a tight track and you have classic country racing in Winton, a 3km track located 200km north of Melbourne.
Our former love, the VF Commodore, had a love/hate relationship with Winton and was only able to break the Winton win drought last year when SVG took out Sunday’s race.
It’s a track that we just can’t nail and of course, being Queenslanders, we blame the ridiculously cold temperatures (yes, we’ve packed our thermals for their annual outing).
“The local Victorian based teams are very fast here. We need to bring our A game,” said Jamie “J-Dub” Whincup.
“The first half of the year is much more challenging for the Queensland based teams, but we will get most of that back during the middle to end of the Championship.”
That’s something that you can hold us accountable for in June, when it’s time hit the Top End.
So as it seems, there’s no better place for some pressure to win than Winton, and in a new car at that.
Five rounds deep and while we’ve had progress with our all new Commodore, we just haven’t had enough (there’s never enough of anything around here). When you do the maths, a current total of four wins and 10 podiums going in May is just not good enough.
“I was hoping we’d have more of an understanding of the ZB by now, but the last few rounds have proven we have a little more to go,” said J-Dub.
“Winton is one of the slowest and tightest circuits in the Championship which makes it super technical. It’s always cold here as well so getting tyre temperature is difficult,” said J-Dub.
Finding a track that isn’t very ‘Whincup friendly’ is far and few between but Winton is one of them – J-Dub holding only four wins to his name here since 2003 – the last win being in 2012.
On the other hand, team mate SVG broke Triple Eight’s drought of Winton wins last year when he claimed his first win at the track – in scenes that saw J-Dub relinquish the lead in a safety car restart.
For SVG, it’s just another track.
“Winton is a proper old school country circuit and the layout is awesome,” SVG said.
“And this weekend coming, the mornings are expected to get down to two degrees, and it only gets to about 15 degrees during the day, so that will be the challenge, making the tyre work in the first lap.
“Qualifying is a challenge and the new seal makes it very fast, the tyres don’t go off much, so everyone is at the same pace. You really need to be out the front the whole race, getting clear air to be as fast as you can.
“It’s different every year and it’s intense because you drive flat out the whole time, but that makes it quite good.”
A track that lets you put your foot down is basically SVG’s scene… Some see it a challenge, SVG takes it in his stride.
Going in to Winton, SVG is sitting pretty in second position, 158 points behind the leader while J-Dub is trailing in fifth, directly behind team mate Craig Lowndes. And just like every race meeting, you never know what can happen.
Meet J-Dub and SVG on Thursday 19th May from 12pm-1pm at Holden Wangaratta (63 Tone Rd, Wangaratta).