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HomeNewsWhincup vs Winterbottom: The alternate reality

Whincup vs Winterbottom: The alternate reality

MARK Winterbottom versus Jamie Whincup.

It’s one of Supercars’ great modern-day rivalries, but it could have panned out very differently.

The duo raced each other at various junior levels, culminating in Whincup pipping ‘Frosty’ to the 2002 Australian Formula Ford title.

They then had different sorts of three-year Supercars apprenticeships before their paths converged once more, as the bright young talents on the radar of emerging powerhouses.

Whincup had rebuilt his reputation after a rocky 2003 rookie campaign at Garry Rogers Motorsport, while Winterbottom had won the ’03 Super2 title before spending two seasons slogging it out in the main game at Larkham Motor Sport.

Come 2006, Ford Performance Racing (now Tickford Racing) swooped on Winterbottom, while Triple Eight Race Engineering turned to Whincup to be Craig Lowndes’ teammate.

What followed was more than a decade of Winterbottom and Whincup duking it out, including nine successive seasons where they both finished inside the championship’s top five.

How the story actually played out, with Whincup and Winterbottom at Abu Dhabi in 2012. Pic: an1images.com

“It’s funny because actually, he was probably in line to get the Tickford role and I was probably in line to get the Triple Eight role through Campbell (Little),” Winterbottom reflected in Part 2 of his V8 Sleuth Podcast polished by Bowden’s Own.

“I remember doing an interview with Campbell and Ludo (Lacroix) actually, and he did one with Tickford.

“But Ford back then was very involved. They were so invested in the sport – they were unbelievable actually and they could say ‘I think you’re a better fit here’ and ‘you’re a better fit there’.

“They kind of swapped us and that’s how it worked out, which was great because he found his feet at Triple Eight and I found my feet at Tickford and everyone is happy, so it worked out quite well.”

Winterbottom was familiar to Little from their time together at Stone Brothers Racing in 2003.

Speaking more broadly to their respective journeys, Winterbottom continued: “I was from Sydney and raced go-karts and getting wins up there, he was in Victoria and getting wins down here.

“It’s funny, the Sydney/Victoria rivalry and it’s still going.

“But in karting I probably towelled him up to be honest, week in, week out, but no one watches it and no one knows. And then in Supercars he has the championships to say that he did a better job here.

“I’ve got a few videos if anyone wants to watch! It was good.

“When you’re kids, those go-kart races mean more than anything. It’s funny when you look back, how much you want Bathurst is how much you wanted that Victorian state title. And then we raced Formula Ford and into Supercars.

“It was a rivalry that I think, we both are two completely different people with how we approach even life, so two different people and two different teams and whatever it was.

“It was definitely a good rivalry.”

Whincup retired as a full-time driver at the end of 2021 to move into the position of team principal and managing director at Triple Eight, succeeding Roland Dane.

He has continued co-driving at the enduros, as well as competing in GT World Challenge Australia, and has even flagged the outside chance of a return in 2024 if needed to replace Shane van Gisbergen.

Winterbottom meanwhile is in the midst of his 20th full-time season and his fifth with Team 18, who he is contracted to until the end of 2024.

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