THERE is no doubt that defending V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup will be feeling the pressure of sitting 629 points off the pace when he lines up on the grid for Sunday’s Bathurst 1000.
However, Whincup will not let that pressure spoil racing at what is his favourite circuit in the championship.
“Practice lap, qualifying lap, race lap, it is an exciting place and one we really look forward to,” he told Fairfax Media radio.
“Every single year when you drive over that last hill and see Mount Panorama for the first time, the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. It’s Bathurst week.”
This year Bathurst week could make or break Whincup’s championship.
In 2014 the Red Bull Racing Australia star made it four consecutive V8 drivers’ championships and a record six overall crowns.
But this season Whincup has picked up just three wins from the 24 races conducted thus far and finds himself sitting in eighth position behind Mark Winterbottom.
Last month at the Sandown 500, Whincup was poised to make up some ground as he and co-driver Paul Dumbrell led for much the race – 83 of the 161 laps.
But unfortunately for the defending champion, he was not leading when it mattered most and the 300 points for the win went to Winterbottom.
“We were in the box seat, we had good pace, but a bit of an issue in the pits caused a puncture and that was the end of our day,” Whincup, who ended up in 15th, said.
“So fingers crossed we can turn it around in the big one.
“The car has got over 100 sensors on it and that just generates a huge amount of information we all filter through for the weeks following an event.
“I download it onto my computer and we all go through it, and of course all the data the engineers get they’ll be sending that to me and we are just trying to work out on computers how to get the car going faster.
“So there is a big game going on behind the scenes.”
This year will mark Whincup’s 14th start in the Bathurst 1000, a race in which he boasts an impressive strike race with seven podiums.
He has had his share of disappointments as well – such as running out of fuel when leading on the final lap last year – but Mount Panorama is still a place Whincup is passionate about.
“It is the Melbourne Cup of our sport, there are plenty of factors why Bathurst is Bathurst. The history of course, guys have been racing up and down that mountain for many years before me,” he said.
“The event itself – a thousand kays, it is an unbelievably hard race to win. It is hard race win to win, easy race to lose.
“And then the circuit itself, we are very lucky to have right here in Australia such an unbelievable bit of road. I regard that track as top five in the world and it is right here in New South Wales, so that is pretty cool.
“It’s been kind in the past and it’s been cruel at the same time, so fingers crossed we have a good run this year.”