Frustrated Frosty Aims for Texas Triumph
By: V8 Supercars
Frustrated factory Ford racer Mark ‘Frosty’ Winterbottom is looking to kick-start his V8 Supercars season by claiming victory at this weekend’s inaugural Austin 400 in Texas, an event he rates as prestigious as Bathurst.
The Pepsi Max Falcon FG driver could have won multiple races already this year and be vying with arch-rival Jamie Whincup for the Championship lead, but instead he is winless and ranked only ninth on points after a series of mechanical, pit and racing dramas.
And adding to Winterbottom’s woe is the fact his winless streak now extends back a full 12 months. Victory at the Circuit of the Americas would not only be a relief but a great way to celebrate his 32nd birthday next Monday (May 20).
“I am frustrated to be honest,” he told V8Supercars.com.au. “I think I could have won four races by now if tyres didn’t blow and gearboxes didn’t fail and safety cars didn’t come out and all those sorts of things that go on.
“I know I have a good car and I know I am driving to its limits and in terms of speed I have been getting the most out of it.”
Winterbottom hopes COTA, which he visited while it was being constructed last year, will be where obvious speed gets turned into a tangible result.
“It’s exciting to go there, it’s almost the round of the year,” he declared. “I have always wanted to race in America so to do it in our own category is even cooler.
“A lot of fans from Australia are going over and it’s going to be one of the big marquee events. It’s always been Bathurst and then Clipsal in order of priority of what you want to win, but I think that first race at Texas there will be a lot of pride in winning that one. I am looking forward to it and I think it will be a great event.”
The only downside he can see is the pit window for the mandatory stop to change hard tyres in each of the four 100km races opens on lap 10 of 27.
“I think it should open on lap five so then it actually adds some strategy,” Winterbottom argued. “Open the window on lap 10 and everyone would be in within two laps.
“If you stop on lap five that means you have to do 22 laps on a set of tyres whereas if you stop on lap 10 you only do less than 20. So you’d see people going long and pitting late and you’d see the cross-over.”
Even if he sweeps Texas, Winterbottom is conscious the 292 points gap to Whincup will still be almost impossible to bridge until the enduros, and only then if he avoids DNFs and the Red Bull Racing Commodore driver has a terminal failure in one of the big points endurance races.
“I am in the position of not being able to afford a race that goes wrong,” he said. “I have to have perfect reliability from here to the end of the year and that’s a big ask from a new car. But you are never out of it with Bathurst, Gold Coast and Sandown… they are all massive points rounds. If someone has a DNF there and I don’t then I can be quite easily be back in it. But it’s not an ideal situation to be in.”
Some things have gone right for Winterbottom this year; early season horsepower deficiencies have been quickly addressed by FPR: “The guys have been working really hard and done a really god job and found a lot in a short space of time.”
He is also enjoying the relationship with his new engineer James Small, who was moved from David Reynolds pre-season, while Campbell Little now engineers new team member Alex Davison’s Jeld-Wen Falcon.
“Campbell was really great, but sometimes you get a little bit stale, you work together for four years and maybe you don’t go in-depth because he thinks he knows what I am talking about and I am thinking he understands. But James is definitely challenging me more and that’s no disrespect to Campbell. It’s just another guy asking me a different way and I was probably lazy with Campbell, so it was good.”
Winterbottom denied pitlane rumour that he had asked Small to swap against Reynolds’ wishes, or that the move had caused discontent within the team.
“People see engineers changing and they think there are dramas, but it actually works really well. I was nervous at first coming off a good year and with new cars. But it was perfect timing to do it.”