SUPERCARS champions generally retire from full-time driving when they lose one or more of the following: speed, hunger and opportunity.
Jamie Whincup finished his final season second in the championship, outgunned by teammate Shane van Gisbergen, but still very much one of the fastest on the grid.
In his final weeks as a full-timer he showed his desire to win is still immense; barging van Gisbergen off the track in Sydney to keep him behind, in spite of team orders.
And as for opportunity… his place at the Triple Eight team he co-owns hardly seemed under immediate threat.
But yet moments after finishing fourth in the season-ending Bathurst 1000 alongside Craig Lowndes, Whincup remained in no doubt that he’s made the right call.
The very work-ethic that has helped him re-write the record books is ultimately, Whincup says, what has resulted in him drawing a full stop.
“I did get a feeling with a couple of laps to go that this was the last two laps of my career; it was a ‘heart in the mouth’ sort of feeling,” Whincup reflected to V8 Sleuth.
“But it’s time. It’s my 20th Bathurst, 20 years I’ve been doing this, and I haven’t done it easy; I haven’t cruised through.
“I’ve done it real hard, sitting in that truck, going over the data for 20 years trying to be at my peak, and I can’t keep doing that.
“Body-wise, probably more mentally than anything, you just wear out because I’ve gone so hard for so long. It’s time.
“I’ve given everything I have for a long period of time and it’s time for a new challenge. I’m not sitting here going ‘have I made the right decision?’. It’s time.”
Whincup’s new challenge will be as team principal of Triple Eight, stepping up as replacement for long-time boss Roland Dane.
While one could have forgiven Whincup for lessening his intensity once he’d made his retirement decision ahead of the season, there was little evidence of it on-track.
The controversial stoush in Sydney was proof that Whincup was fighting to the bitter end.
“If anything, you want to have a big last push to try to make sure you’re proud of your final year,” he said of his motivation.
“P2 in the championship, was only a couple of hundred points off the lead and 300 ahead of third, that’s a good result.
“Shane’s at the height of his powers, he’s absolutely the form guy and I finished P2 behind him. I absolutely didn’t disgrace myself, I’m pretty proud of that.”
Although fourth after a long double-stack in the pits was hardly the result he wanted, Whincup had plenty of reasons to be proud on his final day as a full-time driver.
An on-grid induction by Prime Minster Scott Morrison into the Supercars Hall of Fame on Sunday added to the Barry Sheene Medal bestowed upon him on Friday.
“The accolades I’ve received, the Barry Sheene Medal and the Hall of Fame, is huge, to have the Prime Minister present it to me is massive,” he said.
“I’m very respectful. This sport has given me a lot, I want to make sure I repay it, bring a new generation on and repay the sport for everything it’s given me.
“I love the sport, I’m here for the sport. I’m here to go racing with this team, but I’m here for the sport first and foremost and if I can…
“It’s given me everything. I got to meet the PM because this sport has allowed me to drive around in circles fast. It’s pretty cool.”
Whincup’s retirement was just one element of an ‘end of an era’ vibe at Triple Eight at Bathurst, amid Dane’s decision to step back from team principal duties.
Add to that the exit of its two races engineers (David Cauchi to Grove Racing and Wes McDougall moving away from the sport), and it’s a big transition period for the squad.
“It does feel like the end of an era, 100 percent,” noted Whincup. “But I’m just all for the future, I just want to keep moving forward, keep evolving.
“It’s rare that I want to hang onto what we’ve got. I’m always ‘no, let’s go, let’s keep changing and keep moving forward’.
“It’s the end of an era but I feel like we’ve done what we need to do in that era and let’s go for a new challenge, let’s go for another crack.”
Broc Feeney will take Whincup’s place next year at Red Bull Ampol Racing, with the duo likely – but not yet confirmed – to team up for the Bathurst 1000.
MORE: Whincup’s final full-time blast analysed on the Castrol Motorsport News Podcast