IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom has left Sydney Motorsport Park with an ‘opportunity missed’ at a podium after finishing sixth in sixth in Race 12 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship..
With two sets of soft tyres allocated for the weekend, both Winterbottom and team mate Scott Pye elected to maximise them in the third and final race of the weekend.
Qualifying saw Winterbottom put on used tyres to start 10th for Race 11, while a new set of softs saw him snag fourth for Race 12, his personal best qualifying effort of the season to date.
Race 11 earlier in the afternoon was a battle for Winterbottom as he lacked pace on hard tyres compared to many runners who went for soft tyres, dropping out of the top ten to 14th.
Winterbottom settled into a rhythm in fourth place during Race 12, before he pitted on Lap 10 for four soft tyres. Drama ensued on exit when the IRWIN Racing Commodore drove out of the pit box while the crew were still attempting to remove the air spike from the side of the car. The hose was torn loose but the air spike attendant was unharmed. The team has been fined $1500, with half suspended until the end of the year, and docked 30 teams’ championship points for the incident.
Pye pitted four laps later than Winterbottom and the extra tyre life late in the race enabled Pye to get past for fifth as the Team 18 pair trailed each other to the chequered flag.
Winterbottom felt he lacked genuine soft tyre pace for most of the weekend and was disappointed at an opportunity missed for a shot at the podium.
Team 18 will pack up and travel north again, this time to Queensland to set up a temporary workshop with legendary Bathurst and championship-winning team owner Ross Stone on the Gold Coast until the next event.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship will return to action next in the Northern Territory for the Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway on August 8-9.
Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore
“I feel that we missed an opportunity in the last race, our tyre strategy was optimum and we had a great qualifying position but the race pace wasn’t where we needed it to be,” said Mark Winterbottom.
“We finished with a straight car and a consistent weekend with two top tens, a 14th and we qualified in the top ten for all three races so we’ll take those as positives and build on that in Darwin.
“We’ll leave Sydney and head north to Queensland tomorrow, the team will regroup and enjoy a couple of weeks off as we prepare for the next event up in the Northern Territory.”
Charlie Schwerkolt, owner Team 18, IRWIN Racing and DEWALT Racing
“It was great have racing back on again for the teams and also our fans and sponsors watching from home,” said Charlie Schwerkolt.
“The IRWIN Racing side of the garage had a solid weekend, the last race today was one that got away for Frosty [Winterbottom], but a still a great overall effort points wise and showed solid qualifying speed all weekend.
“Scotty [Pye] was a jet today and came through from 11th to fifth, and great to see him with a momentum-building result for him and the DEWALT Racing crew.
“Over the weekend we’ve had one car that lacked in qualifying but strong in the race, while the other was fast in qualifying and couldn’t keep up in the race, so we’ll analyse our data alongside our technical partners in Triple Eight and see what areas we have to work on to improve our package further.
“The night racing was awesome, the DEWALT Racing and IRWIN Racing Commodores look incredible and under lights they really stand out amongst the pack.
“The racing again was competitive and exciting, and with the flames bursting out the side, the glowing brake rotors and the new lights around the track, our championship looked sensational on the broadcast.