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Winterbottom ‘kicked in the guts’ in Perth

MARK Winterbottom’s Albert Park podium seemed like a lifetime ago as he and Team 18 struggled through the Perth SuperSprint.

Winterbottom qualified 23rd on both days at Wanneroo Raceway, setting the stage for a pair of long afternoons which brought race results of 16th and 20th.

Wanneroo’s status as Team 18’s kryptonite is not new.

Scott Pye’s 10th place there last year and David Reynolds’ 10th on Sunday are the Mount Waverley squad’s only top 10 results at the track aside from its inaugural visit in 2013.

“What a tough weekend. We came here with a lot of hope and just didn’t go our way,” Winterbottom said.

“(On Sunday) my qualifying car was actually quite decent, but traffic hurt us. When the car came back on the track and I didn’t get my lap in, you get one lap on a set of tyres, so that was that and it put me back in the pack.

The #18 DeWalt Camaro in Perth. Pic: Supplied/Mark Horsburgh

“When we’re back in the pack, we thought we’ll have a swing on the set up and try something completely different and there’s definitely bits that I know we can work on with it, but it was a bit of a guess and we just didn’t get it right.”

The 2015 Supercars champion has traditionally been a master in qualifying trim – Pye openly credited ‘Frosty’ for making him lift in terms of one-lap pace across their four seasons as teammates – but it’s increasingly become an issue.

Winterbottom was unlucky to be baulked by Ryan Wood during Sunday qualifying in Perth, with the Walkinshaw Andretti United rookie penalised accordingly. Will Davison was also investigated for impeding Winterbottom in the same session but was cleared.

Nevertheless, Winterbottom has now started 15 of 38 races in the Gen3 era from 20th or worse on the grid.

Compare that to starting 20th or worse on just 15 occasions in the 277 races prior to last season.

Pic: Supplied

Winterbottom is determined to right the ship before next month’s Darwin Triple Crown, which will be a return to the scene of his victory for Team 18 last year.

“Thankfully, we go home, we get a test day before Darwin,” he said.

“We’ve got so much stuff to test, and we’ll bounce back. I know we’ll bounce back, but we’re just a point at the moment where we just keep getting kicked in the guts a bit and you start to get frustrated.

“We’ve got a good team and we’re going to a round next that clearly we enjoy.”

There were at least positives to take away from the #20 side of the garage, following Reynolds’ better showing on Sunday.

“It’s a much better finish and everyone’s much happier and it’s given us a good direction, but we’re understanding a few things about our car and we’ve got a test day coming up, which is going to be really important for the rest of the year,” he said.

Team 18 and several other southern Supercars squads will test at Winton Motor Raceway on Thursday, May 30.

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