Mark Winterbottom’s hopes of claiming a maiden V8 Supercars Championship crown will be in tatters unless he can turn around a disastrous run in form, the Ford Performance Racing driver has admitted.
The man nicknamed ‘Frosty’ was enjoying a 161-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings in June after winning Darwin’s Feature Race, but the subsequent visits to Townsville, Queensland Raceway and Sydney Motorsport Park have seen a serious decline in the Ford driver’s fortunes.
In those nine races, he’s qualified inside the top-ten just twice and only netted four top-ten finishes (none in the top-five). His chief championship rival, defending title-winner Jamie Whincup, has outscored him by 321 points to bump Winterbottom into a distant second place in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
The Red Bull Racing driver now leads ‘Frosty’ by 135 points heading into the next three Pirtek Enduro Cup events, where the championship title really could be won or lost.
Quite why Winterbottom has had such a disastrous run remains unclear, although the signs suggest that the 33-year-old and his engineers took a wrong turn in exploring a particular set-up, and are now all at sea trying to undo it.
His regular engineer, Grant McPherson, was sidelined last weekend with glandular fever, and so Winterbottom had to call upon the services of the FPR engineering returnee Campbell Little – freshly arrived from Dick Johnson Racing – to help engineer the car.
The handling of the #5 Ford was so bad last weekend, Little eventually resorted to copying the set-up of Winterbottom’s vastly less-experienced teammate, Chaz Mostert, who has comfortably outscored his veteran stablemate in recent rounds and enjoyed three podium finishes.
“I put Chaz’s set-up in (on Sunday) and had some success with it… we gained a bit. My race pace was quite good, I was quickest on the hard tyres for quite a while there,” Winterbottom told the V8 Supercars official website.
“[But] we will be lucky to finish top three if we keep going the way we are,” he conceded.
“We are too slow, just not quick enough, and you can’t hold on to something when you are slow.”
Image via Ford Performance Racing