Championship leader fends off 100 milestone pressure
BEING just one Supercars win from a century milestone would play on the thoughts of many drivers.
But not 2016 Championship leader Jamie Whincup.
Preparing to protect his lead at Queensland Raceway this weekend, Whincup answered with a relaxed laugh when asked about closing on 100 victories.
"No, no no, no pressure,'' the Red Bull team racer said.
"It's just a number in the background. Certainly not a focus.''
Whincup heads into this weekend's Ipswich SuperSprint series with a real chance of becoming only the second driver to reach 100.
The other is teammate Craig Lowndes, who is currently running fourth in the championship with 104 wins overall.
Whincup, 33, clocked up win number 99 at the previous round in Townsville.
He had a tough time at Queensland Raceway last year, finishing eighth and ninth. However, having won six Supercars titles, he and his team know how to make quick adjustments.
"We've had some good ones there in the past but last year certainly wasn't one of our favourites,'' he said.
"We'd like to think we've learnt from our mistakes and we can put on a better performance this weekend.''
Although settled weather is forecast for the main races on Saturday and Sunday, Whincup was cautious.
"We have certainly improved the car the last few months, which should help us at Queensland Raceway but as always, it is sport and you never know until you get there and what conditions are thrown at us on the day,'' he said.
This season, Whincup hasn't dropped out of the top three after winning or placing second in the opening two races.
However, the former kart champion is taking nothing for granted.
"We've been there or thereabouts. Unfortunately there's no prizes for winning the championship at the midway point,'' he said.
"We'll keep our head down and try to keep that position until the end.''
Reflecting on how he won his past six championships, Whincup said it was "up and down'' in performances.
"I really don't feel like we are up to our best at the moment,'' he said.
"I feel like there's more luck involved in winning the championship rather than pure race pace so we've certainly got to continue to step up between now and the end of the year to maintain our lead.''
As for his major challengers, Whincup hopes his teammates Shane van Gisbergen and Lowndes are doing the chasing.
Gisbergen is in second, ahead of fourth-placed Lowndes, who knows the Queensland Raceway circuit well. "Hopefully it comes internally but the Ford guys will be as strong as per usual and Team Penske always seem to be getting better as well so they'll be a real threat,'' Whincup said.
Championship leader Jamie Whincup
Age: 33. Born: Melbourne. Based: Gold Coast.
Car: Number 88 Holden Commodore.
Supercars titles: Six (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
Favourite championship win: "It's very difficult. It's like trying to compare your kids. They are all very different in their own way.''
Loyal driver: Has raced with Red Bull team for a decade. "Ten years is probably most marriages these days. I'm very proud to be on the same team for so long.''
First pole: At Queensland Raceway, 2007. "That was pretty cool''.
The most satisfying part of Supercars: "The racing. I live for the competition and the battles.''
The toughest part: Packing up after a big weekend. "You're absolutely spent and packing up the garage up is always pretty tough.''
Unusual promotional activities: Racing lawn mowers at Bathurst; rowing canoes through Darling Harbour.