Jamie Whincup insists that Shane van Gisbergen’s immediate success at Red Bull Racing Australia this season has come as no surprise.
The Kiwi took his first V8 Supercars Championship race victory for the team at Symmons Plains on Saturday in just his second points paying event with the squad.
Including the non-championship Albert Park meeting, Van Gisbergen has four victories from eight starts for Red Bull, compared to two wins for Whincup in the same period.
Two of Van Gisbergen’s victories have come after overtaking Whincup on track, including in yesterday’s Race 4 at the Tasmanian venue.
Whincup pulled the opposite rein on the way to his win at Albert Park during a start to the year that has seen all three Triple Eight cars regularly in close combat.
“I haven’t been impressed, but that’s a compliment,” Whincup told Speedcafe.com when asked of Van Gisbergen’s strong early form with the team.
“I rate him highly and knew he would come in and do a good job straight off the bat.
“He’s won a few races, but I won one in Adelaide. It’s early days.
“He’s done 125 races, so there’s plenty of experience there. It’s an equal battle.
“The main thing is that we’re doing a good job working together to make sure that all cars are quick.
“I’d rather be one-two than battling each other for fifth and sixth.”
Whincup says he was “a sitting duck” when Van Gisbergen closed in a third of the way through Saturday’s 120km heat.
Having started seventh, the six-time champion pitted early in order to leap-frog his way to the front and had five lap older tyres than his team-mate for the duration.
Although the ease in which Whincup allowed Van Gisbergen through surprised some onlookers, the former says it made no sense to fight.
“He had better performance and he had better tyres as well,” he admitted.
“There wasn’t much fight going on. He was going to get me one way or another, it was just a matter of time.
“There was no point running a defensive line for 10 laps trying to hold him up because it was inevitable in my mind.”
The early stages of the season have indicated that each of Triple Eight’s three drivers, including Craig Lowndes, can be race winners on any given day.
Whincup is however very matter-of-fact when asked if he believes he can come out on top over the season.
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” he said.
“I’d give my seat to some young kid if I didn’t think I could do the job.”
Today will see a 20 minute qualifying session take place from 1140 local time prior to the start of the 200km Race 5 at 1405.