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Winterbottom hails ‘ridiculous’ Albert Park sprint racing

BEING stripped of its pitlane at Albert Park in 2024 has come with a rather significant silver lining for the Repco Supercars Championship.

While a demotion to effectively be a fourth-string category at the booming Formula 1 event has been much-maligned, it’s also helped deliver some of the best Supercars racing in years.

That’s the view of veteran Mark Winterbottom, who finished second in Race 2 of the weekend on Friday afternoon.

The result – achieved from fourth on the grid – marked just the second podium for Winterbottom since joining Team 18 in 2019.

Winterbottom in the thick of the action. Pic: Supplied

“The racing is ridiculous. The passes, the urgency and the chaos going on, it’s actually really good fun,” said Winterbottom.

“We’re all pushing as hard as we can, there’s not really anyone taking each other out, it’s to the limit.

“There’s cars four-wide, bombing down the inside, switchbacks, there’s so much going on. I think that’s the best racing we’ve seen in this category for a long time.

“To be up the pointy end and not getting hit in the rear at the start or in that concertina was nice. If you’re up the front it makes a big difference.

“But it was a lot of fun. Matt (Payne) was fast at points and then (Davison’s) there, Le Brocq’s there, they’re all over the place, then these two at the front (Brown and Feeney), go fast, go slow, go fast, go slow.

“There’s a fair bit going on but to be able to get a trophy for Charlie (Schwerkolt) and the team, he spent a lot of money, recruiting and all that sort of stuff and you’ve got to get reward.

“That was a really good result.”

Asked for his thoughts on why the opening races have been so action-packed, Winterbottom pinpointed two factors.

“I think the tyre degrading is big. Also the fact that you don’t pit,” he said.

“Normally if you’re behind someone, they bring you in, short-fill, long-fill, put you in a gap and you artificially pass them.

“But here, if you’re in the pack, and also qualifying is out of sync, because one-lap, you’re getting guys out of place effectively, it’s making a big difference too.

Winterbottom is a seven-time race winner at Albert Park. Pic: Supplied

“When you want to pass someone, you pass them on track.

“That’s a lot different to an engineer telling you, we’ll get you out early, clean air, just cruise around and pass 10 cars in the pits if you’re fast enough.

“I think the non-pits has been, although controversial, I think it’s mega for the racing.

“There’s always pros and cons to some decisions and I think the racing…. if people are disappointed with that race, they’re hard to please.”

Saturday at Albert Park will feature two qualifying sessions and the third race of the weekend.

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