Mark Winterbottom reflects on last weekend’s Perth event where he not only returned to the top spot of the podium but also broke his and the team’s 18-month drought for a championship event pole position.
Perth has traditionally been kind to you and the team, and it proved to be the case this year. You were back on pole, what was that like for the first time in 18 months?
It was good to have a car that you can challenge with for pole. Qualifying is the thing that sets up the weekend so the biggest highlight of the weekend was that we had a car on pole in every race. Race wins will always come when you're in that position. It's been a long time; I think Phillip Island in 2013 was my last pole other than the Grand Prix which was a long time ago. That was the biggest excitement on the weekend and starting every race on the front row gave us every opportunity to win. It was great to have two different setups running on the weekend, my setup and Chaz's setup were quite a bit different, but both were working which is a good sign for the team.
Not taking anything away from the pole positions but obviously to convert those into wins as well was a key thing in gaining big points. What was it like to be back on the top step?
It was awesome. It's funny, you win one and then the expectation is that you should win them all. It gives you belief and a lot of confidence. The wins on Saturday were great. The first race was tough, Chaz was quick and right on my heels but race two was just that perfect race. You get the start, you get the first couple of laps where you're three-tenth's clear and then you just manage the gaps and that's the best way to go racing. It was great to stand on the top step and really dominate Saturday the way we did was a great feeling and gave us some confidence back that we are a true player in the championship.
You were a demon starter all weekend and that was probably the difference between winning and maybe not in at least one of the races on Saturday. Starts have been a strong point of yours again, but obviously converting them was really critical.
The starts were tough. The track has really low grip and the track crowns in the middle so the car sits a little bit staggered on the grid, so it's hard to get the power down with the track grip. For me I used really low throttle percentage and that's a technique that seems to work quite well there, so in every race it was bulletproof which was bizarre. Normally you get one bad start and two good starts but the front row is also difficult because to see the lights is quite difficult because of the angle. Three good starts setup Saturday’s wins and even on Sunday it helped our early strategy. It's good to be doing something right that others were struggling with.
Sunday was one of those races that ultimately got away from the team but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Without a safety car the team would likely have finished 1-2-3. What are your thoughts on the Sunday race?
To win that race we thought our best option was to put soft, hard, soft because you had to re-use hards as well. It was a good strategy. My car was struggling and using its tyres quite quickly and hindsight is great but if we had no safety car we would have been miles down the road. I think we went there to win, we tried to win and I'm not sure why the tyres failed on my car. I drove so smoothly that mine should have lasted the way Chaz's did but for whatever reason it didn’t. It's one of the races that you look bad when you finish bad but it worked at Darwin and we looked like heroes, it worked at Tassie and we looked like heroes so it works more times than it doesn’t and the ones that don't you've got to cop on the chin because it will work more times than it won't. We won't shy away from that. It won't change our opinion on our strategy but hindsight is a wonderful thing in motorsport. We went there to win and that's what we tried to do and did do in two of the three races.
This season you've got a new car, a new aero kit, and a new engineer. Chaz has more confidence after last year; Dave has confidence in the car, Andre's coming on, and the team's working really well together. Everyone is backing each other and the results are coming. How do you see it?
It's good for the team to lock the front row out in qualifying because it's a statement. Sometimes one guy can jag a lap and he looks really good but when you have two cars up the front it's a statement. Dave was on the front row in Tassie and Andre was well inside the top 10 so we're all learning as well but it's important for the mechanics and engineers to have their car on the front row at times as well because although they put in to the whole team, it's good for their confidence to know they're doing a good job on their specific car. It's a really good time for the team and our sponsors right now. Everyone's pumped and we should be because we're doing well.
Finally, the Dunlop Series held its 100th round in Perth. Obviously you're a former champion, our current up-and-comer Cameron Waters clean-swept the weekend. It's a great breeding ground for new talent and one that is still doing a great job for us. How do you see the series now?
The Dunlop Series serves a really good purpose. We used Cam over the weekend so it benefits the main guys as much as he uses our experience, we're using what he does as well. He's quick, he's dominant and he's leading the championship. Any championship you win you should be proud of and he looks like he's on his way to win the Dunlop Series Championship this year. If he can do that it will be a good stepping stone. Most of the main series drivers started in the Dunlop Series and it's what really breeds you because if you look at Cam, he's doing times that are pretty close to the main game so he should be able to slot straight in and be effectively a frontrunner in the main series. He's got a big future ahead of him, he's only young and he's doing a great job.