The Greatest Race of Whincup’s Career
He’s won at every circuit on the calendar, five Championships and four Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000s – but which race does Whincup credit as his all-time best?
“Clipsal was the place I think I had the greatest race of my career,” the 2013 Champion told v8supercars.com.au. “That was race one, 2012.”
Whincup’s father had passed away the week before, and the newly crowned Champion was desperate for a result in what was a hard time personally.
Qualifying fifth, Whincup started behind third-placed Will Davison on the grid, and the race ultimately came down to the pair after the treacherous Adelaide circuit sorted the boys from the men over 250km of running.
Alternate strategies saw the two close mates in different circumstances at the end of the race, Davison conserving fuel and Whincup pushing as hard as he could to make up the deficit of opting for a third pit stop. He recorded qualifying-style laps as he thrashed his TeamVodafone Commodore VE II around the 3.78km, concrete-lined track.
It was the final lap, 78, when Whincup pounced alongside Davison’s Trading Post FPR Falcon FG, and at the turn nine hairpin dove for the lead, eventually winning by a 5.5 second margin.
“I passed my good mate Will Davison on the last lap to win the race,” Whincup remembered. “It was extremely emotional for me and one of the greatest races I’ve been involved in.”
The circuit has ultimately been a successful one for the now Red Bull racer, who took his first ever V8 Supercars race win there in 2006, a year of chaos and carnage.
“I probably should mention that – that race is overshadowed by 2012. But that was my first win in a V8 Supercar, first race for Triple Eight. It was a fairly huge day and there’s no bigger race than Clipsal, so for me to win that one was massive as well.
“But the 2012 win went above and beyond.”
That year wasn’t all near misses for Davison either. While he admitted to feeling a little robbed after such a close second, he bounced back in Sunday’s race, achieving his first and only victory to date at the Clipsal 500.
And while that year springs to mind as a great battle for the new Erebus Motorsport recruit, there are plenty of on-track fights with Whincup over the years at the event.
“Obviously 2012 both races were special,” Davison told v8supercars.com.au.
“Leading with the last lap, coughing on fuel, Jamie getting through on a pretty emotional time for him was pretty special and being able to have such an incredible battle with him was special. In probably one of his most special races of his life, we were able to nut it out at the end in an incredible way.
“And then to come back the next day – I felt a bit robbed on the Saturday – but I was glad it was he who got that result and we were able to nail it the next day in a really good way. For sure that’s my most memorable time there.”
Davison debuts with Erebus Motorsport this season, but it was his first time on-track with a former team that reminded him of another tough competition with his good mate.
“Even in 2009 when Jamie won, in my first race at HRT I was runner up to him and we just had an awesome battle. It wouldn’t have looked great on television, there was about a second and a half between us for about 50 laps (but they were) qualifying laps, high, high level stuff and that’s why I love Adelaide.
“I’ve had quite a few podiums there. It’s a very rewarding place and track when you nail a good race and you’ve got a good car – you do a faultless 78-lap race without a mistake. It’s really grueling and very rewarding.”
Admittedly under-prepared for the 2014 season opener, Davison isn’t stressing about being part of a new team, which he emphasised was on the rise.
“I’m excited, I’ve got a different mindset and just enjoying working with them to work through our problems and our developments. Certainly I’m very, very encouraged and that’s all that matters – to see how many ideas we’ve got – it won’t be long until that starts showing.”
How will Davison go in his new Mercedes-Benz AMG? Will Whincup continue to smash records, with the potential to record 10 wins at the Clipsal 500?