The fight is on! The Supercars Championship arrives at Homebush Olympic Park with two drivers ready to battle it out for the 2016 title, Red Bull Racing’s teammates, Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen.
Currently van Gisbergen leads the standings with a 191 point lead over his teammate, however with 300 points up for grabs, 150 in each of the two 250 km races, Whincup can easily come from behind and take his seventh Supercar title.
Despite his expertise at this track, winning five times to his teammates three, Jamie knows that the challenge that awaits him this weekend will be a tough one….
"It's going to be hard to beat Shane this weekend at his home track," he concedes. "He's quick, he's amped up, he's in good form, and so I have to focus first and foremost on being in front of him before I can worry about hoping some of the other guys get between us so I can get some points back. I've got every expectation that he'll be up towards the front."
Jamie’s driving style is that of a leader, rather than a follower and he is hoping that it will be the same way in the season finale, leaving the pursuing up to van Gisbergen. Some drivers, like former teammate Craig Lowndes, lose the chase, but Jamie feels so much more comfortable leading the race and letting those behind try to catch him….
"Some people like to lead from the front, while others like doing the chasing,” he said. “Neither situation feels that different for me one way or the other, but if I had to say, I'd prefer to be leading than chasing, that's just my personality compared to others, I'm happier being the hunted, not the hunter – I'm not sure if Shane's one or the other."
As for Shane, he well and truly has the advantage over Whincup and as he is the pursuer, he can comfortably sit back, take it easy, keep his nose clean and simply finish fifth and it doesn’t matter if Jamie wins both events, he will still be champion. Just like Nico Rosberg in the recent Formula One season finale, the pressure of not having to actually win the race makes it somewhat easier, and the pressure will all be on his teammate, who, regardless, has to win both events to be in with even a small chance of beating his teammate.
“We know what we need to do if I finish in the top five in one of the races at Homebush, then it doesn't matter what Jamie does, even if he wins both of them. The car has been awesome for a while now, so the focus is on making no mistakes and be up front in both races, away from any craziness back in the pack, and get it done.”
That said though, Shane is well aware how tough the Homebush weekend can be….
“Homebush is a tough one as they're always long races there, 250km on a circuit where there's concrete everywhere and where it's really dirty off-line, there's always safety cars … it's a punishing weekend<’ he explained. “As a driver, a lot of action happens there, but I'll be hoping not a lot of it involves me. I'm not going to let anyone walk over us and push us around, sure, but the goal is to not do anything stupid, stay smooth and get it done. I'm looking forward to it.”
So who will come out on top? The six time champion, or his teammate, who has never won a Supercar championship?
Make sure you tune in for a thrilling weekend of racing as we find out the answer!
Homebush fast facts:
Name: Sydney 500 – Homebush, Olympic Park
First race: 2009
Length: 3.4 Km
Laps: 74 x2
Distance: 250 km x2
Average Speed: 139km/h
Top Speed: 248 km/h
2009 winner: Mark Winterbottom
2015 Winner: Jamie Whincup
Chance of safety car: High