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Winterbottom sure of Sandown rebound

MARK Winterbottom is confident Team 18 will bounce back at the Sandown 500 after a woeful weekend at The Bend.

Two months on from his emotional win at Hidden Valley, Winterbottom and teammate Scott Pye were non-factors in South Australia.

Both cars ran outside the top 20 throughout practice; Winterbottom was bottom three in all three qualifying sessions and it was hardly much better for Pye (qualifying 21st, 18th and 20th).

There was little more reason to smile in race trim – until the event finale, when Pye charged to 11th, setting the second fastest lap of the race along the way.

“It was a very difficult and challenging weekend, but we never gave up,” said the #20 Camaro driver.

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“We kept pushing and then in the last race, from what was a difficult qualifying, still we improved the car and managed to come home in 11th starting 20th.

“It was all done through car speed in that last race, I set the second quickest lap of the race.

“We kept trying and we came away with a package which was definitely more competitive.

“I wish we could hit reset and start again and have another crack at it with the car we finished with.”

The #20 BP Ultimate Camaro of Scott Pye. Pic: Supplied

Pre-event, Winterbottom had said The Bend would provide lessons for the upcoming Repco Bathurst 1000.

The lesson is that there’s work to be done – although he’s much more upbeat about Team 18’s chances at next month’s Sandown 500, where he’ll have Michael Caruso as his co-driver.

“That was an incredibly tough weekend,” lamented Winterbottom, who is under contract for 2024.

“As a team we really struggled for car speed. Everyone worked really hard, and when you’re struggling you work harder than the rounds that are going easy, because instead of tuning you’re trying to reinvent, and all the team worked incredibly hard.

“At Sandown I know the car will work there, but we have a bit of work to do on these long flowing corners, which obviously Bathurst is one of them.

“We’ll go back, regroup and get ready for enduros and put my angry little Italian mate Caruso in the car. We’ll have a test day to sort it out, but it wasn’t a good week at all.”

Pye, who is a free agent, will re-unite with Warren Luff for Sandown and Bathurst.

Pye and Luff were runners-up in both the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Great Race.

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