Mark Winterbottom won’t be unsettled by those questioning the aerodynamic performance of Prodrive’s FG X Falcons as he chases a maiden V8 Supercars title.
The 34-year-old heads to Queensland Raceway this weekend looking to extend a recent run of form that has netted six wins from the last 11 races and a 248 point championship lead.
The dominance of the Prodrive Fords has had rivals questioning aerodynamic parity within the class, triggering V8 Supercars’ technical department to review the situation post Townsville.
With the category having reaffirmed its position that parity was achieved at January’s homologation tests, Winterbottom says his team will continue to focus on improving its own performances.
“It doesn’t bother me, it’s got no impact at all,” Winterbottom, who spent time between race meetings holidaying in the United States, told Speedcafe.com.
“It’s good that people think they’re getting beaten in an area where they’re probably not.
“The numbers are what they are and they say we’re equal. We’ve not turned up with an open-wheeler, we’ve just done a good job of fixing where we were deficient.
“It will always happen (complaints), but the guys complaining are getting beaten within their own manufacturer anyway, so it sort of makes them look a bit silly.
“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. It’s working so far, so if we can keep it going, it’ll be good.”
Having been shaded for outright speed by team-mate Chaz Mostert for much of the early part of the season, Winterbottom was particularly encouraged by his form on the streets of Townsville.
Mostert’s qualifying edge has had Winterbottom working to adapt his driving style in a bid to extract more from the FG X.
Winterbottom hopes that the intra team competition at Prodrive, which sees Mostert and David Reynolds fourth and fifth in points respectively, will help, rather than hinder, his title chances.
“We got closer in Townsville but there’s still more I can do,” he said of adjusting his driving style.
“It’s been hard to change overnight when you’ve been driving a certain way for 12 years, but when your team-mate is out-qualifying you consistently, you’ve got to do something.
“At the grand prix (Albert Park) when I was driving my way it worked, but it was hit and miss and you can’t have a car that’s pole on one week and 10th the next.
“You need to be there every week. It’s about giving more flexibility on set-up. The way I was driving it before it was really sensitive.”
Winterbottom’s strong start to the season has come not only with a new car, but also with a fresh race engineer in Jason Gray.
Working as the data engineer on Winterbottom’s car in recent seasons, Gray was thrust into the main role this year following the departure of Grant McPherson to arch rivals Red Bull.
While the other driver/engineer relationship at Red Bull, that between Jamie Whincup and David Cauchi, has been split following a rocky period, Winterbottom says he has full faith in the developing Gray.
“You’ve got to be careful when you match an experienced driver with a new engineer, because sometimes they’ll just say what you want to hear,” explained Winterbottom.
“But he (Gray) doesn’t mind challenging you, which is sometimes frustrating and sometimes rewarding. He’s a lot smarter than me though, so he can say his piece and back it up.
“At the end of the day you’ve got to work well with anyone, whether they’re first year in the job or 20 years in, because how you work together is the difference between winning and not.
“Whether it’s set-up ideas or theories, you’ve got to be able to back them and go with it.”
The Coates Hire Ipswich Super Sprint will kick-off with Steve Owen aboard the #5 Falcon during Friday’s 30 minute co-driver practice before Winterbottom takes over for the subsequent sessions.