Fans in Ipswich keep Supercars ace enjoying his sport
ENJOYING a more relaxed interaction opportunity with fans, defending champion Jamie Whincup planned to continue his Supercars career for some time to come.
Unlike another popular driver and long-time teammate Craig Lowndes, 35-year-old Whincup has no immediate goals to give up full-time racing.
Happy and fan friendly on his latest visit to Ipswich, Whincup looked every bit like a seasoned competitor hungry to build on his seven Supercars championship titles and 111 race wins.
"I'm going to go a bit longer,'' Whincup said.
"I don't have a plan on my future but one thing I have always said is I won't go past my use-by date.
"The last thing I want to do is hold up a spot for a potential young kid to come along and do some damage.''
The record-breaking racer was in huge demand at Saturday's Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint Community Day at Orion Shopping Centre in Springfield Central.
However, Whincup happily mingled with fans at a Supercars event with more variety and access than previous days in Ipswich.
"Today in particular, we're mixing it up - to do a bit of interacting,'' Whincup said.
"This is probably my 15th year or so in the category. The boring old signing session doesn't really float the boat these days but the fact that we've got some activities going on and we can move around and interact, that's excellent.
"The interaction is great and you don't get that at a signing session.
"There's plenty of personalities out there and I love learning about people and getting their opinions as well.
"Some of these fans are just as involved in the sport as what we are so it's great to get their opinion to one day try to make the sport better.''
Heading into this weekend's Supercars round in Ipswich, Whincup is in fourth place on 1630 points.
The multiple championships winner is behind current series leader Scott McLaughlin (2033), the ever-consistent second placed Shane van Gisbergen (1902) and Bathurst champion David Reynolds (1646).
Ipswich crowd favourite Lowndes remains a major threat on 1602 points, in his final year as a full-time Supercars competitor.
When asked if he was ready to make a charge like he did in the second half of last year's championship, a wise Whincup was cautious.
"Talk's cheap and we don't try to get too far ahead of ourselves,'' the experienced Commodore driver said.
"But the situation I'm in is I'm further back than I'd like to be - and what I have been the last five or six years - so no point looking back.
"We've really improved the car speed. I've been around a while now and one thing I have learnt is to go well in the championship and win races, you've got to have car speed.
"Ours has been pretty good but we've certainly found some big gains the last few months.''
Although he's enjoyed four race wins at Queensland Raceway, Whincup was also mindful of how well his rivals were performing.
"You can't guarantee anything by the weekend but I think we've got a good base to start with,'' he said, having won his third race of the 2018 season at the previous round in Townsville.
"It's an important round for us because it's a home event. It's a home event for the Shell V-car team as well.
"It's genuinely the most challenging because you go there on a test day and you know the things that work well on the car but the race meeting is completely different to the test days.
"It's always great weather. Fingers crossed the sun's out and it's as close as we get to a high-speed oval.
"You can sit on the hill at turn one and two and see the whole facility and there's always good racing there.''
Pleasant weekend conditions would be most welcome after a chilly Saturday morning for the Supercars drivers.
Former Melbourne racer Whincup said he felt the chill having been based on the Gold Coast for 12 years.
"I've lost my thermostat for cold weather,'' he said. "This is cold for me.''
However, the highly sought after Ipswich visitor quickly warmed up as he wandered around meeting the fans and posing for photos with a massive smile on his face.