Ford Performance Racing team principal Tim Edwards has declared Jamie Whincup unbeatable in the 2014 V8 Supercars title race after a disappointing weekend for his team at Surfers Paradise.
Whincup had entered the weekend 297 points ahead of FPR’s Mark Winterbottom and leaves with a 402 point margin.
A total of 600 points remain on offer across the final two events at Phillip Island and Sydney Olympic Park.
While Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell scored a win and a second from the weekend, Winterbottom and Steve Owen managed just fourth and 14th.
“The championship is over, we’re just racing for second,” Edwards told Speedcafe.com after Race 32
“It (the championship) will be settled on Saturday at Phillip Island, potentially. It’s not great but it is what it is, we can’t do anything about it now.
“If Jamie had just run out of fuel (at Bathurst) going up the hill instead of down it might be a different conversation, but unfortunately we had those bad rounds before the enduros that held us back.
“We’re second and sixth (Chaz Mostert) and what we’ve got to aim for now is two in the top five.”
The typically conservatively-spoken Whincup admitted the weekend was “a pivotal round” in his quest for a history making sixth title.
“We are going to have to choke pretty heavily from here, but it is possible (to lose),” he said.
“We will go away and do what we normally do and make sure we prepare well.
“We won’t be celebrating until it’s mathematically out of the question.”
Success this year will mark Whincup and Triple Eight’s fourth consecutive title and sixth in seven years.
FPR and Winterbottom are meanwhile still searching for their first, leaving Edwards to ponder over another missed opportunity.
Winterbottom led the standings from early April through to August, but fell away over the middle portion of the year as the team struggled to extract qualifying speed from its Falcons.
“To finish second and fifth in the championship, if we are to finish in those positions, is still a successful year, but it’s disappointing that that elusive championship has escaped us again.” reflected Edwards.
“We’ve had a bit of an up and down year but so have everyone else, including Triple Eight.
“They just rebounded quicker and our down spell was longer than theirs.
“It’s full credit to Jamie because he’s been the champion for years and he does a pretty good job. You can’t take anything away from him.
“We’ve made some mistakes as a team this year and we’ve just got to try and learn from them.”
Winterbottom failed to qualify in the top 10 for either race at Surfers Paradise; a far cry from the team’s front-running performance at Bathurst earlier this month.
Edwards noted that getting the most out of the soft compound tyre used on the Gold Coast while sticking to the recently introduced 17 psi minimum pressures is likely to have contributed to the squad’s struggle.
“We had accidents, penalties and all of that sort of stuff (through the weekend), but fundamentally we’ve got to work out why we weren’t as quick,” he said.
“Whether it’s the tyre pressures I don’t know, but earlier in the year we were better on softs than on hards and this weekend we weren’t as competitive this weekend as we should have been.
“Everybody was running the lower pressures (before the rule was brought in at Bathurst), it’s just a matter of adapting your set-up to suit. You’ve got to change springs, damping and all of that sort of stuff.
“We weren’t uncompetitive here but we didn’t have what Jamie and Gizzy (Shane van Gisbergen) had.”